Does your young reader love books that go bump in the night? They’re not alone. Many children enjoy scary stories and the outlet they provide. Hand these books to mature trick-or-treaters with a true taste for the macabre—or keep them for yourself, but consider leaving the hall light on.
Small Spaces by Katherine Arden
Imagine a stalled school bus packed with children headed home from an idyllic farm trip. It’s growing dark. The teacher left and never came back. And the bus driver warns, “Best get moving. At nightfall they’ll come for the rest of you.” Follow Ollie and her classmates as they unravel the eerie history of Misty Valley Farm, desperately seeking to escape as they follow the bus driver’s advice: stick to small spaces. If you don’t, you’ll never make it. This harrowing tale of a field trip gone wrong isn’t for the faint of heart.
Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh
This haunting thriller by the founder of We Need Diverse Books puts a chilling twist on ancient Korean spiritual practices. 12-year-old Harper can’t remember the fire at her old school, but she knows everyone thinks she started it. That’s why she and her Korean-American family had to move to Washington, D.C. But there’s something terribly wrong with Harper’s new house—and her little brother. Family struggles, cultural clashes, Korean shamanism, exorcism, and good, old-fashioned ghosts feature heavily in a series opener we recommend for fans of mystery and horror.
Thornhill by Pam Smy
If you’re looking for a book with the ominous, cinematic pacing of a classic horror movie, look no further. Thornhill is the story of two girls and the looming, gothic building that connects their timelines across a generation. In the 1980s, Mary lives in the group foster home known as the Thornhill Institute. Tormented by vicious bullying and further harmed by uncaring adults, she turns to her diary and her puppet-making hobby for solace. In the present, lonely Ella’s tale is told through moody black-and-white illustrations. Intrigued by the now-derelict Thornhill, she seeks to uncover the story of the girl she sees standing at the window of the abandoned building. But the truth may be darker than she—or the reader—ever imagined.
The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste
Corinne La Mer has heard of jumbies, the monstrous stuff of bedtime stories on her island home. She just doesn’t believe in them. The problem is, jumbies believe in her. One day, Corinne chases an agouti into the forbidden forest and draws the attention of a yellow-eyed jumbie. The jumbie knows more about her than anyone could guess. And she’s about to knock on Corinne’s door. The Jumbies is series opener based on a Haitian folktale. Highly recommended for anyone looking for a suspenseful adventure with Caribbean flair.
The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire Legrand
When type-A Victoria discovers her only friend has gone missing, she is disturbed by the grownups’ inaction. They simply don’t seem to care. Digging into the mystery unearths the rotten core of the Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls and its ultimate mission: to eradicate imperfections in children and, failing that, eradicate the children themselves. If you’re looking for a tale brimming with dread and nausea-inducing ick factors, this is the one for you. Not recommended for readers who feel squeamish about cockroaches or cannibalism.