Happy Halloween! In honor of this holiday that is known for goblins, monsters, and a good dose of horror and scary things I have put together a list of my five favorite books that have great potential to scare a few readers. And since not all readers are able to handle all sorts of levels of “scary” stories…I have put them in order of moderately scary stories to “wozer that one just creeped me out!”
I’m Not Afraid of This Haunted House
By Laurie Friedman
Illustrated by Teresa Murfin
Carolrhoda Books, 2005.
This is probably my all-time favorite (not so scary) scary picture book. Simon Lester Henry Strauss goes through the book showing how bold and brave he is when being confronted with a plethora of monsters. Ghosts, goblins, vampires, werewolves—no problem! He is also not afraid of the gross things that also come with said monsters such as spider webs or blood. “Simon Lester Henry Strauss is not afraid of this haunted house!” (This is the refrain that readers will be able to repeat together as they read though the story.) Of course there is one thing that makes young Simon a little squeamish—and of course readers will enjoy finding out (and perhaps laughing about) what that is.
The Pirate Cruncher
By Jonny Duddle
This is an adventure story picture book about pirates who want to sail to an island to find treasure. Only it is a dangerous task considering there is a pirate cruncher who eats pirates. But off a brave crew sails…only to find that members of the crew keep disappearing. Something is happening and readers will have no idea if any of the pirates will survive until the end of the tale. Granted this story seems to mostly be about pirates—but the whole “will something eat me?” question will drive readers to be a little nervous for both the pirates and the outcome of the tale. (And hopefully none of the young readers will wonder about if they should go swimming or not!)
Kate Culhane: A Ghost Story
By Michael Hague
SeaStar Books, 2001.
This is not one to read to little picture book fans—although it is in a picture book format. This traditional ghost story is one to read to brave elementary school kids or older (and yes I have even told this story to classrooms of high school kids and have had a good response). Kate Culhane is a good girl who is all alone in the world. Both of her parents have died and she often goes to the cemetery to visit their graves. On one such visit Kate stays longer than she intends and is caught by an evil ghost who forces Kate to take him to the village to drink the blood of the people there (in order to gain strength and possibly a longer life). It takes every bit of grit and determination for Kate to save herself and the people in the village (including a cute young man that she fancies). This really is a ghost story that has the potential to be quite spooky! And it is one of my favorite stories to tell around this time of year.
The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle
By Janet Fox
Viking, an imprint of Penguin Random House, 2016. 388 p.
Katherine and her siblings are sent to Rookskill Castle during the 1940 Blitz on London. With classmates disappearing and the threat of Nazi spies, Katherine must use logic and a family heirloom to figure out what exactly is going on. This is a story told in flash backs as well as Katherine’s point of view. The fact that readers know just how many charms are on the chatelaine (and therefore just how many children will need to have their souls captured) will just add to the suspense knowing that more evil and dark things are yet to happen in the story.
The Night Gardener
By Jonathan Auxier
Amulet Books, 2014. 350 p.
This children’s fiction book was one that totally captured my attention. I even had to make sure that I read it during daylight hours (in part due to the fact that the evilness happens at night—by a tree—and of course there are loads of trees all over just outside my house). Basically Molly and her brother Kip are orphans. They travel to England to try to make some sort of a living. But life is hard. The only job that they can get is one at a cursed house where an evil spirit inside a tree is slowly sucking the life out of the house’s inhabitants. The trick is the Night Gardener (that evil tree) also can give somewhat of their heart’s desires. So each character has to ask the question as to if they will give up their soul for what they want or if they will fight to live with all their frustrations and problems. This tree is evil…and if there are any readers who have trees outside their window…they just might be as scared as I was when I first read this great book.