Middle grade books, aimed for readers eight to twelve years old, have had a run on perfectly creepy books for readers that like to be terrified. This list, originally published on the “Kids Are All Right” Book Riot newsletter on October 1 (sign up here for the weekly emails), is perfect for anyone wanting to get in the mood for Halloween.
Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh
Harper doesn’t trust her new home from the moment she steps inside, and the rumors are that the Raine family’s new house is haunted. Harper isn’t sure she believes those rumors, until her younger brother, Michael, starts acting strangely. The whole atmosphere gives Harper a sense of déjà vu, but she can’t remember why. She knows that the memories she’s blocking will help make sense of her brother’s behavior and the strange and threatening sensations she feels in this house, but will she be able to put the pieces together in time?
The Mesmerist by Ronald L. Smith
Thirteen-year-old Jessamine Grace and her mother make a living as sham spiritualists—until they discover that Jess is a mesmerist and that she really can talk to the dead. Soon she is plunged into the dark world of Victorian London’s supernatural underbelly and learns that the city is under attack by ghouls, monsters, and spirit summoners. Can Jess fight these powerful forces? And will the group of strange children with mysterious powers she befriends be able to help? As shy, proper Jess transforms into a brave warrior, she uncovers terrifying truths about the hidden battle between good and evil, about her family, and about herself.
Rise of the Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste
Corinne LaMer defeated the wicked jumbie Severine months ago, but things haven’t exactly gone back to normal in her Caribbean island home. Everyone knows Corinne is half-jumbie, and many of her neighbors treat her with mistrust. When local children begin to go missing, snatched from the beach and vanishing into wells, suspicious eyes turn to Corinne. To rescue the missing children and clear her own name, Corinne goes deep into the ocean to find Mama D’Leau, the dangerous jumbie who rules the sea.
Whichwood by Tahereh Mafi (11/14, Dutton Children’s Books)
Laylee can barely remember the happier times before her beloved mother died. Before her father, driven by grief, lost his wits (and his way) and she was left as the sole remaining mordeshoor in the village of Whichwood, destined to spend her days scrubbing the skins and souls of the dead in preparation for the afterlife. It’s become easy to forget and easier still to ignore not only her ever-increasing loneliness, but the way her overworked hands are stiffening and turning silver, just like her hair. But soon, a pair of familiar strangers appear, and Laylee’s world is turned upside down as she rediscovers color, magic, and the healing power of friendship.
The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street by Lindsay Currie (10/10, Aladdin)
Tessa Woodward isn’t exactly thrilled to move to rainy, cold Chicago from her home in sunny Florida. But homesickness turns to icy fear when unexplainable things start happening in her new house. Things like flickering lights, mysterious drawings appearing out of nowhere, and a crackling noise she can feel in her bones. When her little brother’s doll starts crying real tears, Tessa realizes that someone—or something—is trying to communicate with her. And it involves a secret that’s been shrouded in mystery for more than one hundred years.
Meet the snoligoster, who feeds on the shadows of its victims. The whirling whimpus, who once laid low an entire Boy Scout troop. And the hoop snake, who can chase prey at speeds of up to 60 miles per hour and then, with one sting of its venomous tail, cause it to turn purple, swell up, and—alas—die. These and 17 other fearsome creatures are among the most fantastical beasts in American folklore. Their stories, as narrated by one of the last surviving cryptozoologists, are best enjoyed while sitting around a campfire. If you dare.
Elizabeth and Zenobia by Jessica Miller
Abandoned by her mother and neglected by her scientist father, timid Elizabeth Murmur has only her fearless friend, Zenobia, for company. And Zenobia’s company can be very trying! When Elizabeth’s father takes them to live in his family home, Witheringe House, Zenobia becomes obsessed with finding a ghost in the creepy old mansion and forces Elizabeth to hold séances and wander the rooms at night. With Zenobia’s constant pushing, Elizabeth investigates the history of the house and learns that it does hold a terrible secret: Her father’s younger sister disappeared from the grounds without a trace years ago.
Monsterland by James Crowley
It’s Halloween, and everyone in Charlie’s small town is excited for this year’s festivities. Charlie’s grandfather, Old Joe, is famous for his holiday haunts, and his pumpkin patch is the center of the town’s zealous celebrations. But when Charlie runs into some neighborhood bullies who are after his candy, he heads off into the woods to escape. He quickly gets lost, but spots a kid who he thinks is dead cousin Billy. As Charlie chases after him deeper and deeper into the woods, he finds himself entering Monsterland—a mysterious place where werewolves live amongst trolls and goblins.
Monsters Unleashed by John Kloepfer
Freddie Liddle has a big problem: Monsters. Giant, fire-breathing, electric-shocking, bone-crunching monsters are attacking his town. Even worse, it’s Freddie’s fault. After drawing monsters based on the meanest bullies in his class, Freddie used his school’s 3D printer to make models of them. But the last thing he expected was that the monsters would come to life and keep growing, and GROWING, and GROWING.
Skeleton Tree by Kim Ventrella
Twelve-year-old Stanly knows the bone growing in his yard is a little weird, but that’s okay, because now he’ll have the perfect photo to submit to the Young Discoverer’s Competition. With such a unique find, he’s sure to win the grand prize. But, oddly, the bone doesn’t appear in any photos. Even stranger, it seems to be growing into a full skeleton…one that only children can see.
Death and Douglas by J.W. Ocker (11/26, Sky Pony Press)
Douglas has grown up around the business of death. Generations of his family have run the Mortimer Family Funeral Home. The mortician and gravediggers are all his buddies. And the display room of caskets is an awesome place for hide and seek. It’s business as usual in Douglas’s small New England town. Until one day an incredibly out of the ordinary murder victim is brought to the funeral home. And more startling: others follow. On the cusp of Halloween, a serial killer has arrived.