The best children’s books that are ghost stories

Who am I?

I write adventure and mystery stories for children aged 9 - 13, involving battles with mythical creatures, dangerous pacts with demons, and other supernatural chills. My first book, Ante’s Inferno, won the People’s Book Prize and a Silver Wishing Shelf Award. For The Fall of a Sparrow, I drew on my love of ghost stories, not just for their scariness but also for their emotional complexity: ghosts don’t haunt just for the sake of it. They need something only the main character can give. Friendship, perhaps, a companion in their loneliness… or something much darker. Here’s my choice of classic stories in which ghosts pursue a wide – and sometimes terrifying – variety of agendas.

I wrote...

The Fall of a Sparrow

By Griselda Heppel,

Book cover of The Fall of a Sparrow

What is my book about?

Desperate to escape her past, 11-year-old Eleanor is sent away to a spooky school run by a mysterious great-aunt she has never met. There she finds herself followed around by a strange, awkward little boy who – to her horror – knows all about her. Who is he, and why won’t he leave her alone? Unravelling the mystery draws her into a dark web of family secrets, luring her into deadly danger. 

The books I picked & why

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The Children of Green Knowe

By L.M. Boston,

Book cover of The Children of Green Knowe

Why this book?

Even now, I can’t read this without getting goosebumps. No other writer matches L. M. Boston for creating an enchanting, intriguing atmosphere that leads the reader, along with the story’s main character, 7-year-old Tolly, to feel the ghost children long before they appear. When they do, the combination they bring of joy, playful behaviour, and wistfulness – there is a reason, after all, that they are all ghosts together – goes straight to the heart. 

The Ghost of Thomas Kempe

By Penelope Lively,

Book cover of The Ghost of Thomas Kempe

Why this book?

What I love about the ghost story genre is how it can lend itself to comedy as well as spookiness. Here the plight of poor James, moving to a new house only to find himself seized on as Apprentice to ghostly 17th century apothecary Thomas Kempe, is irresistibly funny. No one will believe it’s not him scrawling advertisements for ‘Sorcerie, Astrologie, Geomancie, Alchemie, Recoverie of Goodes Loste and Physicke’ on notice boards outside his house and all over the village. Lively’s accurate use of 17th century English heightens both the humour and historical realism in this beautifully written book. 

The Haunting of Hiram

By Eva Ibbotson,

Book cover of The Haunting of Hiram

Why this book?

A delightful, bonkers story in which 12-year-old Alex MacBuff, Laird of ancient Castle Carra, is not so much haunted by a motley collection of ghosts as brought up by them from babyhood. For battle-hardened Krok the Viking, heartbroken Victorian governess Miss Spinks, spoilt 5-year-old poltergeist Flossie, retired vampire Stanislaus and failed Hellhound Cyril, Alex is the centre of their world, and they will do anything to help him. Anything, that is, except stop haunting the crumbling, much-loved but unaffordable Castle Carra that Alex needs to sell to Texan billionaire Hiram Hopgood. Which is awkward… as a ghost-free castle is part of the deal.

The Bewitching of Aveline Jones

By Phil Hickes, Keith Robinson (illustrator),

Book cover of The Bewitching of Aveline Jones

Why this book?

More of a supernatural mystery than a ghost story perhaps, but since the sinister magic that besets 13-year-old Aveline arises from a witch long buried in the cold, dark side of the churchyard, this fast-paced, imaginative tale qualifies as both. Particularly striking is that you can read it as a simple, scary ghost story – or as an unnerving portrait of someone with a narcissistic personality, alternating charm, menaces, and pathos to unsettle Aveline and bring her under her spell. Brrrr. 

The Canterville Ghost

By Oscar Wilde,

Book cover of The Canterville Ghost

Why this book?

Not strictly written for children, this classic parody provides the model for countless hilarious hauntings that have cropped up in children’s books ever since. The style is somewhat outdated but that won’t stop you from enjoying the frustration of 16th century Sir Simon de Canterville meeting his match in the Otises, a no-nonsense 20th century American family. Horrific bloodstains are whisked away by Pinkerton’s Champion Stain Remover and Paragon Detergent; clanking chains around Sir Simon’s skeletal wrists and ankles are oiled with a small bottle of the Tammany Rising Sun Lubricator; and most humiliating of all, the ghost’s bloodcurdling night wanderings are rendered ludicrous by traps created by the young Otis twins, involving buttered staircases and jugs of water over doorframes. 

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in ghost story, ghosts, and spacetime?

5,809 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about ghost story, ghosts, and spacetime.

Ghost Story Explore 80 books about ghost story
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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Amazing Mr. Blunden (Puffin books), The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, and The Children of Green Knowe Collection if you like this list.