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As I mentioned earlier this month, I love Halloween. I also love reading scary stories, and October is the perfect time for doing just that! Here are a few middle grade and young adult "horror" stories that I recommend:
The Witches, written by Roald Dahl and illustrated by Quentin Blake, 1983... A young boy moves to Norway to live with his grandmother after his parents are killed in a car accident. His grandmother warns him about witches -- REAL witches -- and explains how to recognize them. Her tips come in handy when the boy stumbles across a whole room full of witches, who are determined to rid the world of children by turning them into mice!
This is a fun book, whether you're reading it aloud to younger kids or reading it to yourself! More humorous than scary, it also focuses on the love between a grandson and his grandmother.
A Sound of Crying, written by Rodie Sudbery, 1970... Twelve year old Polly and her siblings go to spend a few weeks with relatives when their mother takes ill. Soon Polly begins having very realistic dreams about the past and a girl named Sarah. But are they actually dreams? Or is Polly being haunted by a ghost?
This is the first spooky book that I remember reading as a young girl, and it sent shivers up my spine! I recently re-read it, and appreciated it even as an adult. It's a good introduction to the horror genre for kids -- while it offers the thrill of a ghost story, it isn't overly scary, and does not contain gore.
100 Cupboards (2008) and Dandelion Fire (2009), written by N. D. Wilson, 2008... These are the first two books of the 100 Cupboards Trilogy, which also includes The Chestnut King (2011)... In Book One, Henry moves to a small town in Kansas to live with his aunt, uncle, and cousins when his parents are abducted in South America. Strange things begin happening in the old farm house -- the plaster starts coming off of the wall next to Henry's bed, revealing odd cupboards underneath. He quickly realizes that these aren't any ordinary cupboards, but portals to other worlds, including some terrifying ones.
In Book Two, Henry is abducted into one of the cupboard worlds by an evil wizard. This same wizard also comes out of the cupboard into Kansas, wreaking havoc in the lives of several characters.
I really enjoyed the creepiness of Book One, up until the ending, which seemed rushed and incomplete to me. Once I learned that there were sequels to the book, however, I understood why it wrapped up that way. I'm currently in the middle of Book Two, which is even creepier! I can't wait to find out what happens next....
Coraline, written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Dave McKean, 2002... Coraline and her parents recently moved into a flat in a huge old house. While exploring her new home, Coraline discovers a door that opens into a strange and sinister world that tries to mimic the world she came from, but fails. Odd human-like creatures insist they are her parents and do their best to prevent her from returning home.
This is a delightfully creepy book, filled with suspense! I recommend it for kids (and adults) who already know that they enjoy reading something a little scary.
The Ghost Belonged to Me, written by Richard Peck, 1975... It's 1913, and Alexander's friend Blossom tells him that (according to her mother) he has the ability to "make contact with the Unseen". Soon afterwards, Alexander witnesses an eerie glow in his family's barn. When he explores the barn loft, he meets the ghost of a girl, Inez Dumaine, who died in 1861. Inez warns Alexander of an upcoming tragedy -- can he prevent it from happening?
This is an entertaining book, filled with interesting characters, spooky scenes, and some laughs, as well!
The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, written by Stephen King, 1999... Nine-year-old Trisha wanders off a forest path, away from her family, and ever closer to danger. She spends nine days lost in the woods of Maine and New Hampshire, with only a knapsack, a small amount of food and water, and a Walkman to help her survive. The Walkman, which she uses for listening to the games of her beloved Red Sox, is Trisha's only link to the outside world. Meanwhile, someone -- or something -- is stalking her...
I have been a huge Stephen King fan ever since I was a teenager. When my daughter Emmalie was supposed to read a spooky story for a class in middle school, I recommended this one to her -- while it certainly has some intense, frightening scenes, it does not have the gore or violence that many of King's other novels contain. Though I wouldn't recommend it for young kids, there is even an intricate "pop-up" version of this book, perfect for older kids and adults who love King's stories. (I don't own it... yet... but hope to someday!)
In addition to the spooky stories above, I also recommend the following non-fiction Halloween books, especially if you are interested in ideas for costumes, decorations, and parties this time of year:
The Penny Whistle Halloween Book, written by Meredith Brokaw & Annie Gilbar and illustrated by Jill Weber, 1991... This book is filled with fun Halloween ideas for kids of all ages, and it provides easy-to-understand instructions for each craft/costume/decoration/game/etc.
Scary Scenes for Halloween, written and photographed by Jill Williams Grover, 2002... This book offers many wonderful Halloween decor ideas, with beautiful photos of each. It also lists a few recipes for spooky treats. It gives step by step instructions and illustrations for each of the ideas inside.
Have you read any of the books above? If so, what did you think? What are your favorite scary (or not-so-scary) books for Halloween? As always, I'd love to hear your suggestions!