Today, we’ll delve into scary books for kids! This isn’t every child’s cup of tea, but your future Stephen King fans will adore this list.
These three stories bring back all the goriness of the original Grimm Series. And yet, they’re funny. The author, Adam Gidwitz, leads his readers through this creepy land, often warning them that they might want to close the book.
A fun thing to do? Tell kids not to read the Grimm books because they’re too scary. They’ll be a waiting line for them.
Time of the Fireflies
Time of the Fireflies by Kimberly Griffiths Little is creepy but fun. Young Larissa is alone in her parents’ antique shop when one of the ancient, unplugged phones rings. When she picks up the receiver, there is a raspy voice on the other end. Fireflies appear and take her to an unexpected place close to home.
I had a student who read this twice as a fourth grader. Then in fifth grade she returned to borrow it. Three times.
The Luck Uglies
Paul Durham has written three books in this Luck Uglies series. I’ve only read #1 so far, but it was unique. There is so much about this that defies a quick summary. So here are some phrases instead:
- Village Drowning (that’s the actual name of the village)
- Bog Noblins, thought extinct, may have returned (very creepy)
- girls not allowed to read
- books that describe community’s past are outlawed.
- Luck Uglies — a sort of old-fashioned Hell’s Angels who defended the village — have long ago been exiled.
It’s dark. It’s light. The characters are well-rounded and multilayered. It’s the kind of story that makes you feel out of sorts when you close the book and realize you aren’t in Village Drowning.
I listened to this an audiobook and it was atmospheric.
The Night Gardener and Peter Nimble
Oh. The Night Gardener. If you love scary books for kids — or scary books in general — this one should be at the top of your list.
Two children from Ireland ride thier horse-led cart towards Windsor House seeking employment. It’s an odd home with a foreboding tree next to it. Ignoring the neighbors’ warnings, the children gain positions there. In the morning, there are wet footsteps and leaves scattered throughout the house.
This is as close to child-appropriate horror as you’ll get. And, like the Victorian ghost stories of long ago, the writing is delicious! Kids will savor this one. They will need a nightlight.
Jonathan Auxier also wrote Peter Nimble and his Fantastic Eyes, another incredible story.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
Honestly? These books are not well written. But it doesn’t matter. Alvin Schwartz understands what kids fear. His Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark was first published in 1981 and the series has lasted for a few reasons. First, they are truly creepy. Yet each story is short enough so kids can scare themselves just a little and then gratefully close the book.
The pictures may be the scariest part. The illustrator, Stephen Gammell, knows what nightmares are made of. Below shows one of the pages, but here’s a looksie at some pictures that pop up when you do a search for his name. Wild, eh? As a child, I was much to terrified to keep this in my bedroom at night.
The Dead Gentleman
Matthew Cody’s The Dead Gentleman has so much going for it. An old hotel turned into luxury apartments. A forbidden cellar. 1901. Kids communicating one-hundred years apart. And a really scary villain.
Neil Gaiman is an author with hypnotic, fairytale language. In Coraline, a bored girl finds a door to another dimension with a separate version of her mother and father. And everything seems swimmingly wonderful. But the buttons, man. The buttons.
There is also a graphic novel edition.
And finally, an illustrated version by Chris Riddell, one of my favorite kids’ illustrators.
Another Neil Gaiman tale for kids, The Graveyard is not a horror-tale per se, but has some terrifying moments. A baby escapes his family’s murder and crawls into a graveyard, where he is protected, adopted, and raised by its ghosts. The audiobook is excellent and its narrated voices made it easier to keep track of all the characters.
There is a graphic novel version as well.
And like before, Chris Ridell has an illustrated copy.
Holly Black is the mistress of dark tales. (The Coldest Girl in Coldtown was a thrilling young adult novel. And The Cruel Prince is supposed to be equally wonderful. But truly, she’s written SO many fabulous scary books for kids.)
In Doll Bones three friends are divided by the things that so often divide young friends. But they pull back together when confronted by a bone-china doll that seems to move on its own. And the three friends make an odyssey with the aforementioned creepy doll. Quite good.
Jason Segel — yes, the actor — and Kirsten Miller create juicy scary books for kids with this series. In the first Nightmares book, Charlie is stuck in a purple mansion with a stepmother he hates. His realistic nightmares about a witch keep him sleep-deprived.
I’m not usually a fan of celebrity books, but this one was an unexpectedly fun ride.
Now It’s Your Turn!
Tell us in the comments below:
- Are any of these your favorites?
- OR … Did we miss any scary books for kids? Tell us!
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Stephen Donovan says
Hey this is Liam, I love the books on that list. I have read alot of those books and there all great. love your website it is so cool.
Liam! What a lovely surprise to hear from you! I’m looking at that lovely green glass ball you gave me. It’s hanging by my office window and sparkling in the sun. I think of you every time I look at it. 🙂