Gather round, children, for tales of ghosts and monsters and all manner of magical creatures. As pumpkins go up and costumes come out, it’s the perfect time to cozy up with a scary read or two—or thirteen. Not sure where to start? These spooky middle grade books should get you on the right track. From magical spells and ghosts being set loose to monster slaying, you can’t go wrong with any of these adventurous Halloween reads. And for all you ghouls out there, don’t worry; the ghosts aren’t always the bad guys!
Ghost Squad by Claribel A. Ortega
Lucely has always been able to see ghosts. It’s a gift that runs in her family along with the firefly spirits of her ancestors. But when she and her best friend Syd accidentally awaken vengeful spirits in a spell gone wrong (very, very wrong), they have to work fast to save St. Augustine and her family’s fireflies before it’s too late. Otherwise Luce might lose her family—and her home— forever.
Ghost Squad is a ghostly adventure full of heart. It’s the perfect pick for kids this Halloween.
Ghoul Scouts by Taylor Dolan
When Lexie’s grandmother drops her off at the wrong summer camp, she finds herself surrounded by ghosts and ghouls. Good thing she doesn’t scare easily! Alongside her new werewolf best friend and other fellow campers, Lexie earns her badges in writing pen pal letters to the dead and swimming with the local kraken. But a goody two-shoes new camp director is going to ruin everything unless they can use all their otherworldly skills to stop her and save Camp Croak from her dastardly plans. Good thing they know a thing or two about sabotage!
Adorably creepy illustrations compliment this fun story about finding unusual new friends and belonging at camp.
Goodly and Grave In a Bad Case of Kidnap by Justine Windsor
After losing what she believed to be an unlosable poker game (thanks to a magic card in her possession), Lucy Goodly is forced to go work for Mr. Grave to make up her debt. Mystery, magic, and a mechanical raven mingle as Lucy tries to solve a series of missing children cases, which Mr. Grave may or may not be involved in. Unfortunately, Lucy’s keen mind and speculations sometimes have her jumping to conclusions before the whole truth is uncovered. But strange goings on abound at Grave Hall, and whatever the case may be, Lucy is determined to get to the bottom of it—and maybe with the help of a little magic along the way.
Small Spaces by Katherine Arden
Stay away from small spaces—that’s what what the bus driver tells them when it breaks down, stranding Ollie and her fellow classmates at a local farm with a haunted history. And the creepy situation only gets creepier when the strange book Ollie recently rescued from a woman trying to throw it into a river turns out to be somewhat less than fictional. The brothers from her book are buried at this farm. Coincidence? Probably not. And does that mean the sinister Smiling Man they made a deal with is real, too? As Ollie and two of her classmates heed the warning of her once broken wristwatch—RUN—and flee into the woods, one question remains: who is the Smiling Man and what, exactly, does he want with them?
This hair-raising adventure is sure to keep you reading way past your bedtime—but may be a little too spooky for younger readers.
Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh
Rumor is, the Raine family’s new house is haunted. Harper has a bad feeling about it—not that she believes in ghosts or anything. But when her younger brother starts acting strangely, Harper knows she has to figure out what exactly is going on before anything happens to him. As if it wasn’t enough being the new girl in the creepy house, now she’s going to be spending 7th grade researching spirits and trying to save her little brother from a bunch of dangerous ghosts.
Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
Monsters don’t exist in Lucille—that’s what the adults say, anyway. Jam’s never had any reason to doubt that before. But when a creature made of paint and claws and horns emerges from one of her mother’s paintings, claiming to be a monster hunter, Jam begins to question everything she’s been told. After all, if this creature called Pet is right, a monster exists in Lucille even now. And, horrifyingly, it might be living in plain sight. But with all the adults determined to turn a blind eye, Jam and Pet have to take matters into their own hands to prevent something terrible from happening.
This book is often classified as YA, and, as it deals with some more mature and disturbing subjects, would probably be better suited to older middle graders. That said, it has a lot of crossover appeal and would make for a great read this Halloween.
The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste
Corinne La Mer isn’t afraid of jumbies—those are just ghost stories parents tell to frighten their kids into behaving. But when a pair of yellow eyes appear in the forest and a stranger shows up, enchanting her father, Corinne begins to suspect the stories are real. Especially when she learns this stranger, Severine, plans to take over her island home for the jumbies. No way Corinne is about to let that happen! Inspired by a classic Haitian folktale, The Jumbies weaves together magic, spirits, and a powerful message: love conquers all.
Doll Bones by Holly Black
When Zach’s father suddenly decides he’s too old for toys, he copes the only way he knows how: he gives up on playing entirely. But his (former) best friends Poppy and Alice aren’t having that. Especially because Poppy’s being haunted by a china doll crafted from the bones of a murdered girl—or so she says. The only way to prevent a curse befalling all three children is to return the doll to the girl’s home and bury it…before it’s too late.
Potkin and Stubbs by Sophie Green
Lil Potkin is a girl looking for a scoop. As an aspiring young reporter in a corrupt city, she has to work hard to make a name for herself. Then comes Nedly, a ghost no one but Lil seems to see. Add to that the fact that the investigation into his disappearance went cold and might just be connected to several other murders? They might finally have a story on their hands. And if they can save a few lives along the way and uncover some secrets about Lil’s past, well, then that’s even better.
Paola Santiago and the River of Tears by Tehlor Kay Mejia
Building on the legend of La Llorna, Mejia crafts a world of missing children and vengeful ghosts in this wonderfully spooky middle grade book. Paola doesn’t believe in ghosts or fortune tellers or anything science tells her isn’t certifiably true. But when one of her best friends goes missing—possibly kidnapped—alongside strange new night terrors, Pao ventures into the unknown and forbidden depths of the Gila river to get her back.
The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez by Adrianna Cuevas
Ever wished you could talk to animals? Nestor Lopez can, but keep that on the down low. All Nestor really wants is to finally settle down and stay in one town for more than a few months. Moving in with his grandmother after his dad’s latest employment, he might just get the chance. But when the town’s animals start disappearing and his grandmother is pegged as the most likely suspect, Nestor knows it’s up to him—and his special abilities—to prove his grandmother’s innocence. Too bad it’s a real life witch stealing the animal’s powers under the light of the full moon. Along with his new animal friends, Nestor has to finally accept his abilities and take down a witch.
Embassy of the Dead by Will Mabbitt
Jack Green isn’t quite dead, but after accidentally accepting a package from the Embassy of the Dead, he isn’t that far off either. Now a grim reaper is after him (a potentially fatal problem) and he’s off to plead his case before the Embassy of the Dead—if he can even make it there in time. Good thing Jack has a knack for speaking to the dearly departed. The only catch is, he’ll have to stay alive long enough to put it to good use.
Babysitting Nightmares: The Shadow Hand by Kat Shepherd
The Baby-Sitters Club meets Goosebumps in this fun, supernatural take a group of typical teens just trying to do their job. It’s not everyday that the baby you’re sitting is haunted. Too bad for Rebecca Chin, because it seems like that’s exactly what’s going on with her latest charge. Ever since a freak localized thunder storm hit the house, strange things have started happening and the baby, well, he just doesn’t seem like himself. Which is probably because he’s been replaced by one of the Night Queen’s minions. That’s what Rebecca and her three best friends figure out through some expert sleuthing, anyway. In order to stop the Night Queen, Rebecca and co head into the woods to do what any good babysitter would do: get back their lost baby. It’s a quest that will test their courage—and their friendship—to the very limits.