There’s nothing like reading a scary story in the winter. The chilly air, few hours of sunlight, and howling wind make the season the perfect setting for a spooky book.
Many kids love creepy stories — but finding the right reads can be a challenge. Here are a few kid-approved favorites — for the brave.
“Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror” by Chris Priestly
Protagonists Uncle Montague and his nephew Edward feature in this collection of short, eerie tales. Edward loves visiting old Uncle Montague, who happens to have a storehouse of stories locked in his brain, each one creepier than the last. Some, like the story of the girl granted three wishes, evoke earlier classics, while others will be new to readers; many of these lack clear, tidy endings.
“The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman
Gaiman is a literary rock star, and this is one of his finest works — it won both a Newbery Award and a Carnegie medal. A brilliant fusion of text and illustration, “The Graveyard Book” tells the tale of Bod, who is orphaned in the opening chapter of the novel when his parents are murdered by an unknown assailant. Bod escapes and is raised (à la Kipling’s “The Jungle Book”) by a group of ghosts who live in the graveyard next to Bod’s house. But the man who murdered Bod’s parents has not forgotten that he missed someone all those years ago, and Bod will have to face him one more time.
“Wolf Rider” by Avi
Fifteen-year-old Andy just wants to go to a party and have a good time. But right before he leaves, he receives an ominous phone call. The caller, who goes by the name of Zeke, claims to have killed a young woman named Nina, whom he describes in detail. Andy decides the call is a sick prank, and after reporting it to the police, heads out to the party. But once he’s there, he meets a girl named Nina, who is exactly as Zeke described her. He tries to warn her, but she won’t take him seriously. Andy must decide what to do; Nina’s life really could be in danger.
“The Halloween Tree” by Ray Bradbury
Bradbury’s short novel is an eerie trip into the history of Halloween. Eight young children go out on Halloween night dressed up and ready for fun, but they soon discover that their leader, Pipkin, has been mysteriously swept away. The sinister Mr. Moundshroud takes the group on a journey into the past to find their friend. Together, they explore different cultures’ versions Halloween’s traditions.
“Nightmare” by Joan Lowery Nixon
Emily Wood has been plagued by the same nightmare for years: A dead body lying half in water, vacant eyes staring and mouth agape. The nightmare comes again and again, and Emily is left to wonder: Is this real? Did this happen? Who is responsible? The nightmare begins to permeate the real world when Emily is sent to a camp for underachievers. Something about Camp Excel feels eerily familiar, and Emily must deal with her suspicion that the murderer from her dream might be there, too.
“The Stone Child” by Dan Pobloki
Eddie’s dream has come true. A die-hard fan of mystery writer Nathaniel Olmstead, Eddie is moving to the town of Gatesweed, where Olmstead lived before his mysterious disappearance thirteen years earlier. To top things off, Eddie comes across an old book written in code by Olmstead before his disappearance. But all is not well in Gatesweed. Soon, Eddie discovers that the evil creatures of Olmstead’s books are showing up in the streets of his new hometown, and the only way to send them back whence they came is to crack the code in Olmstead’s mysterious book.
“Killing Mr. Griffin” by Lois Duncan
Nobody likes Mr. Griffin. He is the strictest teacher at Del Norte High, given to assigning impossible loads of homework and ridiculing students. So when Susan, a straight-A student, is asked to help pull an apparently harmless prank on the surly teacher, she reluctantly agrees. But the prank is anything but innocuous, and Mr. Griffin ends up dead. That’s not even the worst part — it turns out that her teacher is not the only one dead, and Susan learns that one of her classmates is a killer.
“The Witches” by Roald Dahl
The unnamed narrator of one of Dahl’s finest novels has had a rough life. After his parents’ untimely deaths, he was left with his grandmother. At the start of the book, the two take a much-needed vacation. While staying in a hotel, they discover that their fellow boarders, a convention of little old ladies, are not so innocent after all. In fact, they’re witches. In short time, our narrator is turned into a mouse, an experience that teaches him just how awful and evil real witches can be.