Even young readers sometimes enjoy a good scare! These scary books for kids feature spooky, thrilling, chilling stories that every horror fan will enjoy.
I started collecting these books to try and find books that even those most reluctant readers would enjoy.
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The very first time I was stocking my own classroom library, I had a class that was half (!) preteen boys. Luckily, some of them already enjoyed reading, particularly Rick Riordan series such as Percy Jackson and The Trials of Apollo. Others needed a little help and these scary books were perfect for them!
They were too old for the Halloween board books I love, and Halloween picture books weren’t great for independent reading. Besides, many wanted to read scary stories year-round.
And so my classroom library grew to include lots of great scary stories for kids.
A Word of Caution
As always, please use your judgement when picking out books for your kids. This is especially true with scary books.
There are a wide range of books here; some would probably be okay with the youngest of readers but definitely not all. For in-depth reviews and age recommendations, I strongly recommend you use Common Sense Media as your go-to resource.
Scary Books for Kids
Haunted Canada: True Ghost Stories by Pat Hancock
This series of scary books was my very first thought when I sat down to write this post. I only have a few of the series for my classroom, but I need to buy more because they’re always flying off the shelf!
I think kids especially love these stories because they’re local (at least to our country, if not even closer to home) and because they’re all based on true ghost stories.
The best part is that each story is only a few pages long and often includes pictures, so these books are a particularly good choice for reluctant readers with short attention spans!
Small Spaces by Catherine Arden
This book is honestly one of the creepiest things I’ve ever read. Someone told me it reminded them of the Goosebumps my generation devoured (except me, because I was too scared for anything but the Choose Your Own Adventures) and from what I can tell, that definitely seems to track.
“When the mist rises, and the smiling man comes walking, you must avoid large places at night. Keep to small.”
“Small Spaces” has ghost stories, takes place in the middle of nowhere, and features creepy scarecrows – what more could a horror fan want?
Eerie Elementary series by Max Brallier
What if your school was alive…and evil?!
This series of scary books for kids is aimed at younger readers, but still contains some unnerving elements. In each book, Sam Greaves and friends has to survive the scariest school around.
With illustrations on every page, early readers will feel supported and brought right into the story! Follow along as the lockers eat Sam’s friend, the science fair experiments on the students, and the art show attacks!
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Have you ever wanted to read a coming-of-age story where the main character is being raised by ghosts and ghouls and various other creatures who live in a cemetery?
Welcome to the unique world of Bod, filled with spooky adventures but also lots of heartwarming moments.
I’d say this book is more dark and macabre than actually scary, but it definitely has its moments! After all, it is about a boy whose parents were murdered, and the murderer is still out there!
It’s a memorable and touching book filled with memorable and touching characters, and definitely worth the read for those who can handle it.
For fans of graphic novels, this story has also been brilliantly adapted.
Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty
The first in a fantastic series, this book has everything going for it. It’s set on a creepy estate surrounded by a dangerous forest – one Serafina has been warned away from her entire life, told it will “ensnare your soul.”
It features a slow build of suspense leading to a thrilling mystery involving missing children.
And when Serafina inevitably ends up in that very forest she’s been told to avoid, she discovers a shocking secret and a magical legacy.
This book was genuinely scarier than I had thought it was going to be based on first glance, so read with caution!
The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste
Based on Caribbean folk tales, this tale is both similar and very different from the scary books for kids that I’m used to.
Corinne may be normally fearless, but even she may have met her match. After encountering glowing eyes in the forbidden forest, a beautiful, dangerous woman comes into Corinne’s life.
Filled with new-to-me creatures, ancient magic, and a beautiful island setting, this book is a fantastic horror adventure.
This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein by Kenneth Oppel
I love a good origin story and as someone who has read the (kinda boring) source material, this does a brilliant job!
The story does a great job working in the gothic style to properly honour Mary Shelley’s work and ties the two books together thematically as well.
For kids interested in the story of Dr. Frankenstein but not ready for the original text yet, this is a great warm-up.
A Curious Tale of the In-Between by Lauren DeStefano
A haunting and, at times, heart-breaking story that has a lot of heart. Like “The Graveyard Book“, this story will draw you in with its characters and their touching experiences.
Pram can talk to ghosts, perhaps because she died before she was born and has always felt not fully either alive or dead. (Fair warning: the first chapter features the story of Pram’s birth, including her mother’s apparent suicide.)
When Pram finally makes her first friend who is actually alive – a boy named Clarence who has also lost his mother – they end up on a dark journey.
This book is beautiful in the way it approaches death, magic, and loneliness. Definitely worth the read!
Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn
A spooky ghost story that’s not for the faint of heart.
Molly and Michael have never liked their stepsister Heather, but now that their parents have moved them out to live in an old church in the country, things are getting worse. Heather has an imaginary friend named Helen and keeps saying that Helen is coming for her siblings.
The thing is, Helen isn’t so imaginary and even worse – she does come!
Despite how scary this book may be, it is incredibly beloved by those who have read it. If you know someone who loves ghost stories, this one is definitely for them.
The House With a Clock in Its Walls by John Bellairs
This story knows how to build the suspense and keep it going!
Lewis Barnavelt goes to live with his uncle and is thrown into a world of magic! After he accidentally resurrects the dead, it’s up to him to save the world.
This thrilling book, also turned into a movie a few years ago, captures attention right from the start.
Splendors & Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz
Am I the only one that finds puppets creepy? No?
I certainly won’t be alone in my thinking after you read this book, where the puppeteer himself is worse than any of his puppets (and he’s made an enemy of a nasty witch, too).
Set in Victorian London, this book immediately begins pumping in the sense of foreboding. The suspense builds and builds as you continue reading and then suddenly everything is deliciously woven together.
Although some elements of the story are straight-up tropes (hello plucky orphans, haven’t see you in awhile!), you won’t mind because of how masterfully this story is written.
Bloom by Kenneth Oppel
I honestly haven’t had a chance to read this one yet, but I’ve heard lots of good things. This first book in a new trilogy of scary books for kids has a lot of things going for it, right down to the amazing author.
The plot outline somewhat reminds me of that horror movie, The Happening, which I’ve also never seen because I’m too chicken to watch scary movies but always read their full plot details. (I can read scary things, but can’t watch them, okay?)
Essentially, the world is being taken over by murderous plants, but three teens are seemingly immune. The book is supposed to be terrifying and fast-paced and I honestly can’t wait to read it!
Doll Bones by Holly Black
I haven’t read “Bloom” yet because it’s so new and I haven’t had the time. I haven’t read “Doll Bones” yet because…well honestly I may be an adult, but it still looks super scary to me. (The fact that I have two china dolls still sitting on a shelf in my bedroom doesn’t help.)
This book comes highly recommended and has won all sorts of awards, and it sounds all very well-deserved.
When three friends reach middle school, Zach is pressured into no longer playing the role-playing game they’ve always played. The china doll they’ve called The Queen won’t let them stop, however, prompting the friends to go on a long and harrowing adventure.
More than anything, it sounds like it’s really a book about friendship with elements of horror. I will eventually work up the nerve to read it…but maybe only after I move those china dolls to a different room in the house.
I hope these books send chills down your spine and haunt your dreams, assuming that’s what you’re into.
Did we pick your favourite scary book for kids? Let us know in the comments! We love hearing from you.
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