The best spooky middle grade books

David Neilsen Author Of Lillian Lovecraft and the Harmless Horrors
By David Neilsen

Who am I?

I've been writing Spooky Middle Grade for a number of years, and before that, I wrote horror for Hollywood. Living in Sleepy Hollow, spooky is in my blood, and if I didn't write creepy stories, they'd kick me out. I'm also a professional storyteller and have scared the bejeebus out of kids and adults in places like Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Rockefeller State Park Preserve, and Washington Irving's Sunnyside. Halloween is my favorite time of year. It more or less becomes a month-long village-wide celebration in October. Being inundated with all this crazy rubs off on you, and I have been well-steeped.


I wrote...

Lillian Lovecraft and the Harmless Horrors

By David Neilsen,

Book cover of Lillian Lovecraft and the Harmless Horrors

What is my book about?

Lillian Lovecraft's world is forever changed when she is accidentally haunted by a horrific entity from beyond time and reality named Frank, who likes mustard, plays with people's toupees, and is more annoying than dangerous. Frank's arrival, however, is a harbinger of worse things to come as more and more horrors from Frank's dimension find their way into our world. If that weren't bad enough, a deranged madman is trying to open a portal into Frank's dimension that will allow a giant eyeball to enter our world and devour all of humanity.

It's up to Lillian, her friends, and Frank (if he feels like it) to stop the madman, deal with the horrors, and save the world.

The books I picked & why

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The Screaming Staircase

By Jonathan Stroud,

Book cover of The Screaming Staircase

Why this book?

This is the first book in the 5-book Lockwood and Co. series and an introduction into a wholly original world. It takes ghost hunting in a new direction and is brilliantly written. I go back every few years and read the entire series over just to bathe in the glory of how perfect it is. The characters are multi-dimensional, they become your friends, you want to hang out with them and be a part of their spooky adventures. This series inspired me and influenced me in too many ways to count. The way Stroud plays with convention, turning a ghost story on its head, inspired me to push the envelope in my own work, moving beyond the expected. The result is some of my best work to date.


The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls

By Claire Legrand, Sarah Watts (illustrator),

Book cover of The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls

Why this book?

When I read this book, I was thrown sideways and bowled over. It is just so unique! The creep factor is ridiculously high, and it goes places that are totally unexpected and unheard of in a middle-grade novel. This is not your standard spooky tale, but rather one that will eat into your soul and give you series willies.


Oddity

By Sarah Cannon,

Book cover of Oddity

Why this book?

A story about evil puppets? Sign me up! Oddity is a town only the Addams Family could love, with weird, strange, unusual, and downright wrong things taking place at all hours of the day and night. What I love about this book is the way it manages to give us an entire town of spookiness, and yet still find a plot that is even more spooky. The characters are unforgettable, and the villains are a joyous wonder.


Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies: Devin Dexter #1

By Jonathan Rosen,

Book cover of Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies: Devin Dexter #1

Why this book?

I like a little humor with my spookiness and this book has humor to spare. Just the idea of a horde of demonic stuffed animals brings a smile to my face. Rosen does a fantastic job creating a fully-fleshed out world and filling it with interesting and engaging characters. But seriously, it's the bunnies that make this shine. Even now, just writing about them brings a smile to my face.


Out to Get You: 13 Tales of Weirdness and Woe

By Josh Allen, Sarah J. Coleman (illustrator),

Book cover of Out to Get You: 13 Tales of Weirdness and Woe

Why this book?

Writing a really good spooky short story is hard. Writing 13 of them is near-impossible. Yet Allen has put together an anthology of sheer terror, with each story hinging on something simple and mundane. Basically, Allen makes you afraid of everything, and does it with a smile.


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