The best middle grade spooky books where the monsters are more than monsters

Why am I passionate about this?

In my high school creative writing class, my teacher once said that good writing was a bit like looking at a star. If you look directly at it, it gets a little fuzzy and hard to see. But if you look just off to the side, the star becomes vivid and clear. That, to me, is exactly the power of spooky stories for young readers. We all deal with monsters, to varying degrees, throughout our lives. Even kids. But if we look at it just off to the side, through the angle of a fun, spooky story, those monsters suddenly become much more comprehensible. More faceable. More beatable. 

I wrote...

The Nightmare House

By Sarah Allen,

Book cover of The Nightmare House

What is my book about?

Penny Hope used to be brave, but that was before she met the Fear Maker. Years later, he still haunts her dreams—a tall, thin man with red eyes, in a haunted house in the woods, who devours human souls and leaves his victims' eyes hollow and empty. Penny’s beloved grandma tells her to write down these nightmares as poems in her notebook. But then Penny starts seeing blank-eyed people in the waking world, too.

As more people fall prey to the Fear Maker, Penny must gather her courage once and for all to save the souls of those she loves. With the help of her notebook, she ventures to the Fear Maker’s house. But the house is a labyrinth of nightmares and tricks—and the Fear Maker’s fun is just beginning.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Scary Stories for Young Foxes

Sarah Allen Why did I love this book?

There are two things that I’ve always loved in my books: animal POV and spooky vibes.

This book has both! In so many ways, the things we face in our everyday life can feel like a horror story, or feel like monsters. For a fox, that would be things like rabies, hunters, fires, etc.

The prose was so good and so vivid, and I really worried with each different story how the little foxes were going to survive. One of my absolute favorites.

By Christian McKay Heidicker, Junyi Wu (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Scary Stories for Young Foxes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

Christian McKay Heidicker draws inspiration from witches, vampires, H. P. Lovecraft, and Edgar Allen Poe to craft his middle-grade debut, a chilling portrait of survival and an unforgettable tale of friendship.

When fox kits Mia and Uly are separated from their litters, they quickly learn that the world is a dangerous place filled with monsters. As the young foxes travel across field and forest in search of a home, they'll face a zombie who hungers for their tender flesh, a witch who wants to wear their skins, a ghost who haunts and hunts them, and so much more.

Featuring eight…

Book cover of A Monster Calls

Sarah Allen Why did I love this book?

It’s been said by smarter people than me how writing horror for kids isn’t about scaring them, it’s about showing them how brave they are.

A Monster Calls is the perfect illustration of that. The scariness and the spookiness are a stand-in for the real-life horrors that this kid is facing. Kids deal with a lot, and this book is the perfect example of how to survive when the worst happens.

The artwork too—wow! I wish I could get some of this artwork to hang on my walls. Absolutely gorgeous book.

By Patrick Ness, Siobhan Dowd, Jim Kay (illustrator)

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked A Monster Calls as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

The bestselling novel and major film about love, loss and hope from the twice Carnegie Medal-winning Patrick Ness.

Conor has the same dream every night, ever since his mother first fell ill, ever since she started the treatments that don't quite seem to be working. But tonight is different. Tonight, when he wakes, there's a visitor at his window. It's ancient, elemental, a force of nature. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth. Patrick Ness takes the final idea of the late, award-winning writer Siobhan Dowd and weaves an extraordinary and heartbreaking…

Book cover of The Nest

Sarah Allen Why did I love this book?

Sometimes the scariest thing about monsters is how much we relate to them. Or how much we want to listen to them. That’s exactly what’s being explored in The Nest by Kenneth Oppel.

There’s a surreal quality to this story, as the wasps outside the boy's window begin talking to him. We think their intentions are good at first, but the creepiness builds and builds until it’s almost overpowering. Until the main character doesn’t know if he can resist any longer.

This is a perfect story about finding the thing inside us that’s stronger than any monster.

By Kenneth Oppel, Jon Klassen (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Nest 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?

'The first time I saw them, I thought they were angels.' The baby is sick. Mom and Dad are sad. And all Steve has to do is say, "Yes" to fix everything. But yes is a powerful word. It is also a dangerous one. And once it is uttered, can it be taken back? Treading the thin line between dreams and reality, Steve is stuck in a nightmare he can't wake up from and that nobody else understands. And all the while, the wasps' nest is growing, and the 'angel' keeps visiting Steve in the night.

A haunting coming of…

Book cover of The Ash House

Sarah Allen Why did I love this book?

I still think about the setting of The Ash House all the time.

It is so vivid and so real. The eeriness and spookiness of this place starts from the first page, even the first sentence. We know something is off here in the ash house, and we watch as the main character starts being subsumed by the other kids here.

We worry as he starts losing his identity. But this is a powerful and haunting story about listening to yourself and remembering yourself no matter what else is going on around you, and no matter what anyone else believes.

By Angharad Walker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Ash House 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?

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
meets Lord of the Flies in the exciting debut from Angharad
'A mesmerising other-worldly story that got deep under my
skin - I couldn't put it down.' JASBINDER
BILAN, author of Asha & the Spirit Bird

tense and intoxicating ... Seriously exciting.'
LUCY STRANGE, author of The Ghost of Gosswater

A new boy arrives at the Ash House. He can't remember his name
- or why he's been sent there.

Given the name Sol, and
troubled by a mystery pain that no medicine can cure, he joins
the gang of children living…

Book cover of Doll Bones

Sarah Allen Why did I love this book?

Who doesn’t love a creepy doll story, right? And in this book, it’s done perfectly. But even that, what’s most powerful about this story is the journey the group of kids goes through as they try to restore this doll to its proper place and lay it to rest.

So many middle grade books are about that transitional moment from childhood to…something more grown up. That’s very much the case in this book, but we look at that transition and that challenge via this journey to restore the dolls' bones from whence they came. 

By Holly Black, Eliza Wheeler (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Doll Bones 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?

My name is Eleanor Kerchner.
You can call me the Queen.
I died in 1895.
Now it's time to play.

A chilling ghost story by the bestselling author of The Spiderwick Chronicles, Holly Black.

Recipient of a Newbery Honor Award. An ALA Notable Book. A Kirkus Reviews Best Book. A School Library Journal Best Book. A Booklist Editor's Choice Books for Youth. A Publishers Weekly Best Children's Book. A 2013 Goodreads Choice award nominee. A People Magazine 'Best New Kids Book'.

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Funny Folk Tales for Children

By Allison Galbraith,

Book cover of Funny Folk Tales for Children

Allison Galbraith Author Of Funny Folk Tales for Children

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a storyteller and folktale collector. All my jobs have involved telling stories – as a community librarian, in theatre, in education, and since 2006 as a professional storyteller and writer. I work in schools, festivals, and outdoor education with all sorts of people and their animals. I have honed my skills to find the most enjoyable traditional tales that can be shared widely. I live in Scotland, where I encourage families to read and tell their favourite stories together. Storytelling is a living art form that belongs to everyone. More than anything, I love the natural world, and I bring the magnificence of nature into all my work.

Allison's book list on world folktales for reading to everyone over six

What is my book about?

These are the funniest folktales in the world. You will be amazed at the intelligent animals and LOL at the ridiculous scrapes the humans get themselves into in these short stories. Discover why dogs are our best friends, learn how to change a cow into a zombie, and meet a shape-shifting, cartwheeling raccoon dog.

Suitable for reading age 7+. This book is perfect for storytime & reading together at bedtime and holidays. These stories will cheer even the grumpiest grandparent up :).

Funny Folk Tales for Children

By Allison Galbraith,

What is this book about?

'It's the best present you can give. It never breaks and doesn't need batteries. What is it?'

The answer is inside THIS BOOK!

Eleven of the funniest traditional tales from around the world. Laugh your socks off as you discover why dogs are our best friends, learn how to flummox fairies, and meet a shape-shifting, cartwheeling badger.

5 book lists we think you will like!

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