The best horror books for kids (and kids at heart)

Why am I passionate about this?

I was a scared kid who loved spooky stories. I can still remember sitting on the couch, reading Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, mumbling the words aloud, both terrified and enthralled. I checked out every book in the library on Bigfoot, the Abominable Snowman, the Loch Ness Monster, werewolves, and vampires. I’ve hiked the Pacific Northwest, sailed Loch Ness, and chased a ghost light on a mountain. While I missed Bigfoot and Nessie, I caught the ghost. Now I write the kind of spooky monster mystery books I’ve loved for a lifetime.


I wrote...

Escape from Grimstone Manor

By Matt McMann,

Book cover of Escape from Grimstone Manor

What is my book about?

The Monsterious series is the ideal read for kids who can’t get enough of Goosebumps, Stranger Things, and Five Nights at Freddy’s. Combining high-concept storytelling with a great hook, readers will love the unexpected, spine-chilling twists and turns, action and suspense, and creepy mysteries to unravel in each installment. In Escape from Grimstone Manor, three friends are trapped overnight in a haunted house amusement park ride and discover the monsters are real.

“Spine-chilling and creepy!” — Max Brallier, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Last Kids on Earth

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The House with a Clock in Its Walls

Matt McMann Why did I love this book?

I was a scared kid. Reading spooky books like this masterpiece of middle grade horror let me experience fear in a safe, fun way.

When I saw the timid protagonist Lewis face his fears, it gave me the courage to face my own. Bellairs weaves a creepy mansion setting, zany yet lovable characters, creative magic, deft humor, genuine scares, and a mysteriously hidden clock ticking down to doomsday into a gorgeous tapestry. 

By John Bellairs,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The House with a Clock in Its Walls as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

The American classic - now a major motion picture from Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment, starring Cate Blanchett, Jack Black and Kyle MacLachlan

Lewis Barnavelt doesn't have time on his side...

When Lewis Barnavelt, an orphan, comes to stay with his uncle Jonathan, he expects to meet an ordinary person. But he is wrong. Uncle Jonathan and his next-door neighbour, Mrs Zimmermann, are both witches! Lewis couldn't be happier. What's not to like about seeing his uncle practise spells and eating Mrs Zimmermann's delicious cookies?

At first, watching magic is enough. Then Lewis experiments with magic himself and unknowingly resurrects the…


Book cover of The Graveyard Book

Matt McMann Why did I love this book?

It takes a master storyteller to open a book for children with a gruesome triple murder.

With the rest of the family dead, the assassin attempts to kill the toddler, Bod, who survives by wandering into a graveyard down the street. Protected by the magic of the place, the boy is adopted and raised by ghosts under the watchful eye of a vampire guardian.

Eventually, Bod grows restless, and ventures beyond the cemetery walls where the patient assassin lies in wait. Gaiman has taught me that simple language can have spellbinding power, and I devoured his MasterClass.com videos on storytelling.

By Neil Gaiman, Dave McKean (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

17 authors picked The Graveyard Book as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

When a baby escapes a murderer intent on killing his entire family, who would have thought it would find safety and security in the local graveyard? Brought up by the resident ghosts, ghouls and spectres, Bod has an eccentric childhood learning about life from the dead. But for Bod there is also the danger of the murderer still looking for him - after all, he is the last remaining member of the family. A stunningly original novel deftly constructed over eight chapters, featuring every second year of Bod's life, from babyhood to adolescence. Will Bod survive to be a man?


Book cover of Gallant

Matt McMann Why did I love this book?

Gallant resists being categorized. It’s a middle grade book that feels like a literary adult novel. It’s a horror story, but also a gripping coming-of-age tale. It’s about ghouls, ghosts, and Death, but also found family, self-sacrifice, and acceptance.

A wonderfully Gothic atmosphere pervades this melancholy book, yet there’s hope in this story of a family called to give everything to protect the world from a great evil. And did I mention the young protagonist never says a word?

Beautifully written in a way that makes me jealous of the author’s skill, its haunting effect lingered with me for weeks after turning the final page.

By V. E. Schwab,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Gallant as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 13, 14, 15, and 16.

What is this book about?

The Number 1 Sunday Times-bestselling novel, from the author of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, and A Darker Shade of Magic.

A darkly magical and thrilling tale of a young woman caught between the world and its shadows, who must embrace her legacy to stop the approaching darkness. The Secret Garden meets Crimson Peak, perfect for fans of Neil Gaiman, Holly Black and Susan Cooper.

Fourteen-year-old Olivia Prior is missing three things: a mother, a father, and a voice. Her mother vanished all at once, and her father by degrees, and her voice was a thing she never had…


Book cover of The Girl in White

Matt McMann Why did I love this book?

Already a big Lindsay Currie fan after reading the wonderfully spooky What Lives in the Woods, I jumped at the offer of an advanced copy of The Girl in White. It surpassed my already high expectations.

In this delightfully creepy yet heartfelt story, a girl desperately attempts to discover why she has been targeted by a vengeful ghost. Relatable characters, a cursed seaside town setting, unexpected plot twists, and genuinely spooky moments had me tearing through the pages.

By Lindsay Currie,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Girl in White as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

For fans of Small Spaces and the Goosebumps series by R.L Stine comes a chilling story about a twelve-year old girl who must face down the most notorious ghost in her haunted East coast town to stop a centuries-old curse that threatens to destroy everything.

Mallory hasn't quite adapted to life in her new town of Eastport yet. Maybe it's because everyone is obsessed with keeping the town's reputation as the most cursed town in the US.

And thanks to the nightmares she's had since arriving, Mallory hardly sleeps. Combined with the unsettling sensation of being watched, she's quickly becoming…


Book cover of The Screaming Staircase

Matt McMann Why did I love this book?

I grew up devouring Sherlock Holmes stories, especially spooky adventures like The Hound of the Baskervilles, so when I stumbled upon a series about modern-day London mysteriously overrun by deadly ghosts, I was intrigued.

When I learned that the adults used children, who alone could see the manifestations, to defend them from this supernatural threat, I was hooked.

Sharp wit, compelling plot twists, complex characters, decadent descriptions, and paranormal scares form this wildly entertaining series that was recently adapted by Netflix.

By Jonathan Stroud,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The Screaming Staircase as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

SOON TO BE A NETFLIX SERIES

A sinister Problem has occurred in London: all nature of ghosts, haunts, spirits, and specters are appearing throughout the city, and they aren't exactly friendly. Only young people have the psychic abilities required to see-and eradicate-these supernatural foes. Many different Psychic Detection Agencies have cropped up to handle the dangerous work, and they are in fierce competition for business.

In The Screaming Staircase, the plucky and talented Lucy Carlyle teams up with Anthony Lockwood, the charismatic leader of Lockwood & Co, a small agency that runs independent of any adult supervision. After an assignment…


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Touching the Surface

By Kimberly Sabatini,

Book cover of Touching the Surface

Kimberly Sabatini Author Of Touching the Surface

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Reader Mom Coach Chocolate connoisseur HSP

Kimberly's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

When Elliot finds herself dead for the third time, she can't remember her past, is getting the cold shoulder from her best friend, and has no idea why she keeps repeating the same mistakes across her previous lives. Elliot just wants to move on, but first, she'll be forced to look at her past and delve into the painful memories she’d rather keep buried. She'll also have to face the person she’s killed.

As she pieces together the secrets and mistakes of her previous lives, Elliot must find a way to earn the forgiveness of the person she’s hurt most…

Touching the Surface

By Kimberly Sabatini,

What is this book about?

Experience the afterlife in this lyrical, paranormal debut novel that will send your heart soaring.

When Elliot finds herself dead for the third time, she knows she must have messed up, big-time. She doesn't remember how she landed in the afterlife again, but she knows this is her last chance to get things right.

Elliot just wants to move on, but first she will be forced to face her past and delve into the painful memories she'd rather keep buried. Memories of people she's hurt, people she's betrayed...and people she's killed.

As she pieces together the secrets and mistakes of…


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