Best books for kids who love scary stories
The Last Chance Hotel by Nicki Thornton
(£6.99, Chicken House)
It's 'Poirot meets Potter' in a locked-room murder mystery that's full of magic and intrigue. Be prepared for non-stop reading as you try to solve clues in this who-dunnit, a surefire winner that's atmospheric, spooky and definitely not just for Halloween reading.
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The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
First lines are written to entice you in to a book and there aren't many better than the first line of The Graveyard Book:
There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.
Bod Owens is a normal boy – except for the fact that he has been raised by ghosts, ghouls and spectres and lives in a graveyard, so he's not quite that normal after all... Gaiman, genius of all things ghostly, writes in such an original, uniquely creative way and really makes you think differently about the traditional tales and spooky stories you thought you knew.
Room 13 by Robert Swindells
The name Robert Swindells is synonymous with stories that are scary and spooky; Room 13 is no different. Written in the 1980s, it will still send a sharp shiver down the spine of its readers today. On the right side of terrifying for readers aged 10 or older who are looking for a thrill with every turn of the page; this short story will have them sat on the edge of their seat (or possibly hiding behind it!).
Goosebumps: Night of the Living Dummy by R. L. Stone
No spine-chilling-stories list could fail to mention R. L. Stine, the master of making people JUMP! A favourite among older Key Stage 2 pupils, the Goosebumps series has gone from strength to strength through the books, the TV series and now the widely successful film franchise. It all started here, with the first book in the series: a (nerve-wracking!) walk down memory lane for parent readers who see their children discovering this author for the first time.
Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror by Chris Priestley
Slightly gothic in nature and reminiscent of a good old-fashioned ghost story round the fire, this collection of eccentric and rather eerie short stories is perfect for reading aloud. Uncle Montague tells tantalising tales to his nephew – but are they fiction? Slowly we, the readers and listeners, begin to understand that what is being shared is a collection of dreadful memories of past events...
Seaglass by Eloise Williams
(£6.99, Firefly Press)
A wonderfully gripping ghost story set on the wet and windswept Welsh coastline, with a feisty main character who fights to protect her family. Don't believe in ghosts? This tale might make you chance your mind as it enthrals and enchants every reader it comes in to contact with. Chilling, compelling and captivating in equal measure.
The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events) by Lemony Snicket
I can remember reading this wildly peculiar and outlandish series when I was younger and it has stayed with me; I'd be surprised if it doesn't stay with you, too! You'll be hooked by the very first line and find it very hard to stop reading this strangely addictive series about the misfortunes of the three Baudelaire children and their evil, slightly scary, uncle. The perfect unputdownable book series for newly independent readers aged 8 and older.
The Demon Headmaster by Gillian Cross
(£6.99, OUP Oxford)
A favourite from my own childhood. When I watched the The Demon Headmaster TV series when I was younger, I had to watch behind my hands because not only was it devilishly good but it also gave my imagination far too many ideas about what my own headteachers might be hiding... A classic that's stood the test of time, perfect to rediscover with your own children.
A Dark, Dark Tale by Ruth Brown
(£6.99, Andersen Press)
A brooding, atmospheric read that's ideal for younger readers. With its rhythmic, memorable repeated phrase of 'In a dark dark ... there was a ...', you'll have readers of all ages reading along with you and waiting on tenterhooks for the surprise of all surprises at the end of the book.
The Watertower by Gary Crew & Steven Woolman
(£5.99, Era Publications)
Slightly sinister, the words and illustrations of this shadowy, science-fiction story will wow readers and encourage them to unleash the full force of their imaginations. As two teenagers explore the strange-goings on at a watertower, they find they have let themselves in for more than they imagined... Too creepy for younger readers, this picture book is way more than just a picture book. Ominous, dangerous and treacherous.
Groosham Grange by Anthony Horowitz
Anthony Horowitz is well known for his Stormbreaker series and teenage spy hero Alex Rider, but I was first introduced to his work by this book, set in a school with a difference (well, rather a lot of differences actually!). In an educational establishment that is more scary than scholarly, David – who was sent to Groosham Grange by his parents as a last resort – ends up in a life or death situation. Gruesome but also grin-some!
The Ghostkeeper's Journal & Field Guide by Japhet Asher
(£14.99, Carlton Books)
Ghouls emerge from the page and the imagination and into our dimension with the first augmented reality novel for children. The Ghostkeeper’s Journal & Field Guide is a chilling adventure with a difference: viewing the book's pages through the free Ghost-o-Matic app allows the reader play an active role in the story to uncover missing pages, find hidden clues and trap phantoms. A fantastic book / game hybrid that offers hours of ghost-hunting.
The Spiderwick Chronicle: The Field Guide by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black
(£7.99, Simon & Schuster)
First published in 2003, the five Spiderwick Chronicles books have sold over 1.5 million copies in the UK and the 2008 film adaptation was a box office hit. Twins Jared and Simon and their older sister Mallory move into an old mansion and discover a parallel world to ours, populated by dangerous faeries and dark magic. Gorgeous, gothic illustrations make this a perfect first fantasy read for younger readers looking to be spooked...
Crater Lake by Jennifer Killick
(£6.99, Firefly Press)
Crater Lake is the setting for a Year 6 residential trip with a terrifying difference... can Lance and his friends work together to defeat a swarm of enemies and survive the week at the scariest activity centre ever? This fast-paced horror adventure story is sinister but very funny too, perfectly pitched at readers aged 9 to 12.
A sequel, Crater Lake: Evolution, is also available.