The best spooky middle grade audiobooks for family car trips

The Books I Picked & Why

Scare Me

By K. R. Alexander

Book cover of Scare Me

Why this book?

This is my eleven-year-old son’s favorite book by master of kiddie horror K.R. Alexander, and I’ll admit that when I read the paperback, I didn’t understand why. The story of Kevin’s obsessive desire to win the annual haunted house contest—no matter what dark forces he angers in the process—was very good, but I thought some of Alexander’s other books were better. Then I listened to the audiobook, and I’ll be darned if I don’t agree with my son now. Michael Crouch infuses Kevin with exactly the right levels of vulnerability and desperation, making us understand every terrible decision he makes...even as we cringe in anticipation of the consequences.


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Nightbooks

By J. A. White

Book cover of Nightbooks

Why this book?

I’ve described this half-jokingly to adult horror fans as “baby’s first Misery.” When young Alex is kidnapped by a wicked witch named Natacha, he must tell her a new scary story every night... or face the consequences. More than a fun, shivery adventure, this book Is a godsend to kids who love scary stories, assuring them that there’s nothing weird or wrong about their interests (and scaring them silly in the process). Even if your children have seen the movie, the book adds new layers to the story and its themes, and it’s delightful to hear Kirby Heyborne offering a different take on the characters’ voices; I will never be able to read Natacha’s dialog without hearing his unhinged shrieking in my head.


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City of Ghosts

By Victoria Schwab

Book cover of City of Ghosts

Why this book?

Ever since her near-death experience, Cassidy has been able to see ghosts. There aren’t too many to worry about in her hometown (other than her best friend, Jacob), but when her ghost-hunter parents take her to Edinburgh, there are suddenly spirits everywhere... and some are old, powerful, and unfriendly. The worldbuilding in this book blew me away—Schwab did such good work establishing the meaning of certain symbols that I gasped in horror at her description of a knotted thread—and the book’s many facts about Edinburgh are educational without feeling dry. Reba Buhr’s voice builds up the tension in all the right places, making it almost impossible to hit “stop.”


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Hoodoo

By Ronald L. Smith

Book cover of Hoodoo

Why this book?

A Southern Gothic historical horror, Hoodoo is a story of fair and foul folk magic in 1930s Alabama. Hoodoo Hatcher is the only person in his family without a knack for the hoodoo that gave him his name—and that’s a problem, because the evil Stranger is coming for him, and he’ll need all the courage and smarts he can summon to keep himself and his family safe. To me, the greatest joy of this wonderful book is Hoodoo’s distinctive, humorous voice, and Ron Butler brings him perfectly to life in his performance; it’s not easy for an adult to make a child’s voice sound authentic, but Butler knocks it out of the park. 


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Scary Stories for Young Foxes

By Christian McKay Heidicker, Junyi Wu

Book cover of Scary Stories for Young Foxes

Why this book?

The most original middle grade horror novel I’ve read in the past five years! Every story in this Newbery Honor book takes something in the natural world and makes it a horror-movie nightmare for fox kits Mia and Uly—whether it’s a rabies outbreak recast as a zombie apocalypse or a sea monster that children will recognize as an alligator. Heidicker does the narration himself and reads his characters with wonderful emotion and nuance; the voice he uses for Mr. Scratch will send shivers down your spine. A word of caution: I found this to be the scariest book on the list by far, so you’ll want to pre-screen it before sharing it with your children.


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