Spooky Tales – A Review of Scary Books in Children’s Literature

(Books that are fun for adults, too!)

Because I write children’s literature, I only read middle-grade or young adult books. They allow me to be a perpetual child! I can honestly say – I don’t miss adult literature. Children’s literature has a responsibility. Not only are you drawn into fantasy worlds or school classrooms, but you’re also reminded of the importance of friendship, family, loyalty, and courage. 

I’ve gathered a number of books that are filled with suspense, twisted worlds, and the occasional fear factor. In order for a novel to scare you, it needs to draw you into the setting and the psychology of the main character. You need to FEEL the same fear along with the protagonist. These books offer a variety of thrill rides!

The Witch Who Drank the Moon – Kelly Barnhill

A witch lurks in the woods outside the town of Protectorate. The townsfolk fear for their safety, so they vow to leave a regular offering of a newborn baby to appease the witch. Little do they know – Xan is a good witch.

Xan does not know why precious newborns are being abandoned, so she carries them to safety and to a good home on the other side of the forest. After rescuing a child, Xan accidentally feeds the infant moonlight. This fills the child with magic that blossoms when Luna turns thirteen.

As her powers grow, Luna must learn to control her magic as the people of Protectorate prepare to rid their valley of the witch once and for all.

Kelly Barnhill is a master of fantasy. This story flows with eloquent rhythms and imagery. The story reads like folklore and keeps you reading until the dramatic conclusion.

Jumbies – Tracy Baptiste

A middle-grade fantasy tale about a town threatened by supernatural beings from the forest. Trees surround the town on all sides and parents warn of the Jumbies who lurk in the darkness.

Corrine assumes that Jumbies are make-believe and a ploy by parents to keep kids from playing in the trees – until she sees one with her own eyes. After chasing an agouti into trees, piercing yellow eyes follow her to the edge of the forest.

A beautiful stranger, Severine, comes to town and shows up at Corrine’s house. When Corrine discovers that Severine hopes to claim the town for the Jumbies, she must gather her friends and experiment with ancient magic to save them all.

Tracy Baptiste creates a tale of suspense and fear while weaving in Caribbean folklore.

Cuckoo Song – Frances Hardinge

Strange and bizarre, yet spooky and enthralling – the only way to describe Cuckoo Song.

Triss awakens in her bed surrounded by caregivers with no recollection of what happened. She doesn’t know why her sister hates her – but her sister knows the truth. The girl in the bed is not Triss.

Triss is soaked with leaves falling out of her hair. She’s determined to find out what happened and who she truly is – even if it seems impossible. She discovers mystical creatures threaten her family, her town, and her very existence.

This tale includes creepy old houses and terrifying dolls. As you read, it’s a battle to decipher what’s real and what’s imagined, as well as who is human. It’s a strange story but a fun ride into the bizarre.

The In-Between – Rebecca A.S Ansari

Loved this story! Cooper sees a mysterious girl at the house across the street. She swings at the tree. She watches.

When Cooper investigates and visits the house, he finds that everything is not as it seems. While Cooper and his sister see a beautiful home with a wrap-around porch that radiates the smell of pumpkin pie, his mom and others see an abandoned house that needs to be demolished.

Cooper discovers the house is a link to another world and time, and the little girl is trapped in the In-Between. A fast-paced story that keeps you turning pages.

If you read this – talk to me!! I’d like to hear what you think of the ending…. Hmmmm.

My Sister Rosa – Justine Larbalestier

While this novel does not dive into the fantasy world of witches, ghosts, and ghouls – it delves into a scary psychological world that is terrifying.

What if your little sister had no conscience? What if she was capable of killing another child – and then smile? Che’s little sister Rosa is not wired right. She manipulates, tortures, and hurts others and hides behind an adorable smile. Everybody loves Rosa – but Che knows the truth.

The scans of their family’s brains indicate Anti-Social Personality Disorder – Che’s scans show it too, but he refuses to be like Rosa. Can Che save those he loves from his little sister and from the darkness of his family before it’s too late?

I think as a physician who has experienced the darkness of certain psychological disorders, this book was scarier than ghosts.

100 Cupboards – N.D. Wilson

Henry York hears noises behind his bedroom wall and the strange scratching noises keep him awake. When he removes the wallpaper and plaster, he discovers the wall is covered with 99 doors leading to different worlds.

With the help of his friends, they explore the portals. Can they keep the villains and fantastical characters from following them back to their own world?

The concept of this book is so intriguing with the idea of 99 different worlds to explore. This is book one of a series.



These are only a few of the amazing books that can set the mood for Halloween! 

A few others to mention:

The Thickety – J.A. White

The Night Gardener – Jonathan Auxier

Howl’s Moving Castle – Diana Wynne Jones

When Helen Comes: A Ghost Story – Mary Downing Hahn

The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman

Have a spooky Halloween season and enjoy some fun reads!

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