With the safety of trick-or-treating still in question, especially as vaccinations are not yet available to those aged 12 and under, I think it’s important that we embrace alternative ways to celebrate Halloween as a way of helping to fill the void created in the wake of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. Reading has always been my sanctuary, so I thought it might be fun to compile a list of scary (and not-so-scary) middle grade stories to help young readers get in the spirit of the holiday and celebrate from the comfort and safety of their own home this year. I’ve tried to include books that fall at different places on the spooky spectrum so that every reader can find the right book for them. Got a suggestion you don’t see in the list below? Please leave it in the comments – I’d love to hear from you!
Looking for even more young adult books to get you in the Halloween spirit? Don’t miss this list I shared in 2020 with 35 more scary (and not-so-scary) middle grade books to choose from in addition to the ones on today’s list!
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While staying in a haunted Colorado hotel for her father’s ghost-hunting television series, Karma Moon must battle her anxiety, interpret the signs of the universe, and get footage of a real ghost – you know, the usual.
Karma Moon is a firm believer in everything “woo-woo,” as her dad calls it. So when she asked her trusty Magic Eight Ball if the call asking her dad to create a ghost-hunting docuseries was her dad’s big break, it delivered: “No doubt about it.” Because the universe never gets it wrong. Only people do.
Karma and her best friend, Mags, join her dad’s Totally Rad film crew at a famous haunted hotel in Colorado over her spring break. Their mission: find a ghost and get it on camera. If they succeed, the show will be a hit, they can pay rent on time, and just maybe, her mom will come back.
Unfortunately, staying at a haunted hotel isn’t a walk in the park for someone with a big case of the what-ifs. But her dad made Karma the head of research for the docuseries, so she, Mags, and a mysterious local boy named Nyx must investigate every strange happening in the historically creepy Stanley Hotel. Karma hopes that her what-ifs don’t make her give up the ghost before they can find a starring spirit to help their show go viral–and possibly even get them a season two.
With Melissa Savage’s quirky cast of characters and spooky setting underlaid by a touching and relatable struggle against anxiety and grief over her fractured family, Karma Moon: Ghost Hunter is bound to charm and delight.
An unsettling, gripping middle grade debut about searching for a sense of belonging in the wrong places, and the bravery it takes to defy those who seek to control us. This is Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children meets Lord of the Flies for fans of Neil Gaiman and Holly Black.
When Eleven-year-old Sol arrives at the Ash House, desperate for a cure for his complex pain syndrome, he finds a community of strange children long abandoned by their mysterious Headmaster.
The children at the Ash House want the new boy to love their home as much as they do. They give him a name like theirs. They show him the dorms and tell him about the wonderful oasis that the Headmaster has created for them. But the new boy already has a name. Doesn’t he? At least he did before he walked through those gates…
This was supposed to be a healing refuge for children like him. Something between a school and a summer camp. With kids like him. With pain like his. But no one is allowed to get sick at the Ash House. NO ONE.
And then The Doctor arrives…
Strange things are about to happen at the mysterious Ash House. And the longer Sol spends on the mysterious grounds, the more he begins to forget who he is, the more the other children begin to distrust him, and the worse his pain becomes. But can he hold onto reality long enough to find an escape? And better yet, can he convince the others?
For fans of Ghosts and Hilo, New York Times bestselling author Cullen Bunn and acclaimed artist Cat Farris deliver a fun, spooky, full-color middle grade graphic novel about a supernatural adventure and friendships that go beyond the grave.
Eleven-year-old Grey lives in the legend-haunted New England town of Ander’s Landing, and he can’t help but feel like a pair of eyes is watching his every move.
He discovers odd, gruesome bits and pieces from the graveyard that are left for him as gifts like art carved from bones or jewelry made from (hopefully not human) remains. Soon Grey is caught up in something bigger than he could ever have imagined.
He finds himself drawn into a strange mystery involving a race of reclusive subterranean creatures — ghouls, the eaters of the dead! Turns out, his secret admirer is a ghoul named Lavinia. An unlikely friendship forms between them. The only problem is, their friendship breaks traditions — and the punishment is a fate worse than death.
A spooky and funny graphic novel perfect for fans of The Witch Boy and Real Friends.
Dragoslava is a vampire kid. It has its perks, but sometimes being stuck as a kid forever can be a pain in the neck. And that’s not even the worst part. A few centuries ago, Drago was cursed by a witch. If they don’t complete every task she sets, they will be turned into worms.
When the witch wants a spellbook from Baneberry Falls, Drago sets off with their immortal friends. But mysteries await in this sleepy Midwestern town, and Drago must figure out if the keepers of the spellbook have a hidden agenda, like everyone else they’ve ever known.
One thing’s for sure: after this accursed mission, Drago’s immortal life will never be the same again!
From New York Times bestselling adult author Joseph Fink comes a wickedly fun middle grade novel about a Halloween-obsessed girl named Esther Gold, who goes out trick-or-treating for one last year, only to find her town under the thrall of a mysterious presence.
Esther Gold loves Halloween more than anything in the world. So she is determined to go trick-or-treating again this year despite the fact that her parents think she is officially too old. Esther has it all planned out, from her costume to her candy-collecting strategy. But when the night rolls around, something feels…off.
No one is answering their door. The moon is an unnatural shade of orange. Strange children wander the streets, wearing creepy costumes that might not be costumes at all. And it seems like the only people besides Esther who are awake to see it all are her best friend, her school bully, and her grown-up next-door neighbor.
Together, this unlikely crew must find a way to lift the curse that has been placed upon their small town before it’s too late. Because someone is out to make sure Halloween never comes to an end. And even Esther doesn’t want to be trapped in this night forever.
In Heather Kassner’s spine-chilling fantasy novel, reminiscent of Serafina and The Black Cloak, an orphaned girl chases a thieving boy into a magician’s land of starless, moonless gloom where other children have gone missing before her.
In order to survive on her own, twelve-year-old Rooney de Barra collects precious moonlight, which she draws from the evening sky with her (very rare and most magical) lunar mirror. All the while she tries to avoid the rival roughhouse boys, and yet another, more terrifying danger: the dreaded thing that’s been disappearing children in the night.
When Trick Aidan, the worst of the roughhouse boys, steals her lunar mirror, Rooney will do whatever it takes to get it back. Even if it means leaping into a pool of darkness after it swallows Trick and her mirror. Or braving the Plentiful Darkness, a bewitching world devoid of sky and stars. Or begrudgingly teaming up with Trick to confront the magician and unravel the magic that has trapped Warybone’s children.
A contemporary collection of original short stories by Anica Mrose Rissi that is sure to elicit chills, laughs, and screams, even from the most devoted fans of Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark!
A game of hide-and-seek goes on far too long…
A look-alike doll makes itself right at home…
A school talent-show act leaves the audience aghast…
And a summer at camp takes a turn for the braaaains…
This collection of all-new spooky stories is sure to keep readers up past their bedtimes, looking over their shoulders to see what goes bump in the night.
So if you’re feeling brave, turn the page.
A twisty, terrifying supernatural mystery about twelve-year-old Lily, her creepy new home in Florida, and the territorial ghost of the young girl who lived there before her.
Lily Horne is a drama queen. It’s helped her rise to stardom in the school play, but it’s also landed her in trouble. Her parents warn her that Florida has to be different. It’s a fresh start. No theatrics. But this time, the drama is coming for her.
Her new house is a real nightmare…
The pool is full of slime, the dock is rotten, and the swamp creeps closer every day. But worst of all, the house isn’t empty…it’s packed full of trash, memories, and, Lily begins to fear, the ghost of the girl who lived there before her.
And whatever is waiting in the shadows wants to come out to play.
Perfect for fans of Small Spaces and Nightbooks, Ally Malinenko’s debut is an empowering and triumphant ghost story – with spooky twists sure to give readers a few good goosebumps!
Zee Puckett loves ghost stories. She just never expected to be living one.
It all starts with a dark and stormy night. When the skies clear, everything is different. People are missing. There’s a creepy new principal who seems to know everyone’s darkest dreams. And Zee is seeing frightening things: large, scary dogs that talk and maybe even…a ghost.
When she tells her classmates, only her best friend Elijah believes her. Worse, mean girl Nellie gives Zee a cruel nickname: Ghost Girl.
But whatever the storm washed up isn’t going away. Everyone’s most selfish wishes start coming true in creepy ways.
To fight for what’s right, Zee will have to embrace what makes her different and what makes her Ghost Girl. And all three of them — Zee, Elijah, and Nellie — will have to work together if they want to give their ghost story a happy ending.
A chilling middle grade horror perfect for fans of R.L. Stine and Holly Black alike.
Noe Wiley couldn’t be more excited to move. After the slumber party sleepwalking incident of last year, she’s ready to make some new friends.
But Noe didn’t expect the sullen, strange girls who live on her new street. And she certainly didn’t expect the strange warning they give her — to stay out of her basement, no matter what.
Noe’s not going to let these girls boss her around. She’ll go in her own basement whenever she wants.
So she does. And there he is.
And now there’s no going back.
A delightfully creepy story perfect for the middle school set! Hush-a-Bye is an old, broken doll found by Lucy and her sister in the woods. It seems to possess extraordinary powers, but will it use them for good or evil?
Like most kids with younger siblings, Lucy loves her sister Antonia, but is all too frequently annoyed with her as well. The two spend most of their time together since their mother works so hard, but without friends Lucy can’t help but feel lonely anyway. She’s always tried to ignore the bullying and teasing at school about her family being poor – it’s always best to keep her head down and do nothing.
When the girls find an old, muddy doll head in the river, Antonia claims it as her newest treasure. At night Lucy hears her talking to Hush-a-Bye – and does she hear the doll talking back? Soon, Hush-a-Bye seems to be protecting Antonia by making bad things happen to others, and it isn’t long before Lucy asks for its help against her tormentors, too. Slowly Hush-a-Bye’s influence forms a wedge between the sisters, and Antonia’s dependence on it becomes frightening. The doll has a mind of its own, and soon it will have Antonia’s as well. Can Lucy solve the mystery of Hush-a-Bye to stop its evil plans?
In this spine-chilling middle grade debut – perfect for fans of Small Spaces and the Goosebumps series – a brother and sister are transported to a cursed world based on the game hide-and-seek, where they are pursued by a shape-shifting witch, the game never ends, and the only way to get home is to win.
“You hid. But you were not found. You thought you were playing a harmless game. You were wrong.”
After Holly and Hector Thorn are left behind during a simple game of hide-and-seek, they find themselves transported to a gloomy, magical world seemingly trapped in time – the Hiddenseek. There, It, a witch with the ability to transform into a raven and a wolf, stalks children day and night, turning any she can lay hands on into statues, frozen forever in their final moments of terror.
Together with the other lost children they encounter, Holly and Hector will have to unravel the mysterious origins of the Hiddenseek and find a way to put a stop to the curse once and for all, before they get stuck there forever…Because in this twisted game of hide-and-seek, they are playing for their lives.
From Christian McKay Heidicker, author of the Thieves of Weirdwood trilogy, comes the heart-stopping companion to the 2020 Newbery Honor recipient Scary Stories For Young Foxes, chronicling the adventures of three fox kits desperate to survive the terrors of a frightening new world.
Fox kit O-370 hungers for a life of adventure, like those lived long ago by Mia and Uly. But on the Farm, foxes know only the safety of their wire dens and the promise of eternal happiness in the White Barn. Or so they’re told. When O-370 gets free of his cage, he witnesses the gruesome reality awaiting all the Farm’s foxes and narrowly escapes with his life.
In a nearby suburb, young Cozy and her skulk are facing an unknown danger, one that hunts foxes. Forced to flee their den, they travel to a terrifying new world: the City. That’s where they encounter O-370, and where they’ll need to fight for their lives against mad hounds, killer robots, and the most dangerous of all creatures: humans.
Award-winning author Christian McKay Heidicker once again surprises, delights, and terrifies with eight interconnected stories inspired by classic and modern horror tropes and paired with haunting illustrations from Junyi Wu.
Prepare to be scared.
Thirteen chilling short stories to keep you up at night – but only if you dare.
You never know what’s out to get you. Though you might think you’re safe from monsters and menaces, everyday objects can turn against you, too. A mysterious microwave. A threatening board game. A snowman that refuses to melt. Even your own heartbeat has its secrets. Thu-thump. Thu-thump. When you stop to listen, each beat sounds more menacing than the last.
Master storyteller Josh Allen brings thirteen nightmare scenarios to life in this page-turning collection that’s perfect for budding horror junkies. In his wondrous world, danger waits behind every doorway…even in the most ordinary places.
Eerie illustrations by award-winning artist Sarah Coleman accompany the stories, packaged in a stunning hardcover edition complete with glow-in-the-dark jacket. Readers will sleep with one eye open!
A creepy, mysterious dollhouse takes center stage in this atmospheric middle-grade mystery for fans of Doll Bones and Small Spaces.
Alice’s world is falling apart. Her parents are getting a divorce, and they’ve cancelled their yearly cottage trip – the one thing that gets Alice through the school year. Instead, Alice and her mom are heading to some small town where Alice’s mom will be a live-in nurse to a rich elderly lady.
The house is huge, imposing and spooky, and everything inside is meticulously kept and perfect – not a fun place to spend the summer. Things start to get weird when Alice finds a dollhouse in the attic that’s an exact replica of the house she’s living in. Then she wakes up to find a girl asleep next to her in her bed – a girl who looks a lot like one of the dolls from the dollhouse…
When the dollhouse starts to change when Alice isn’t looking, she knows she has to solve the mystery. Who are the girls in the dollhouse? What happened to them? And what is their connection to the mean and mysterious woman who owns the house?
From the author of Junior Monster Scouts comes new spooky and silly series perfect for fans of Goosebumps and Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark. In this first book, things get hairy for two fifth graders who take on a haunted mustache!
Wolver Hollow is not a normal town. The adults are too busy shuffling off to work at the old coffin factory to notice or care, but the kids know all about monsters, ghosts, and strange lights in the sky. Strange things happen in Wolver Hollow. Creepy things.
But fifth graders Parker and Lucas are determined to debunk one of Wolver Hollow’s legends: Over a hundred years ago, Bockius Beauregard was vaporized in an unfortunate accident and all that remained was his magnificent mustache. People say it returns every year, on the anniversary of Bockius’s death, seeking a lip to claim as its own! When the boys try to prove the story is fake, the find more than they bargained for.
In this second installment in the spooky and silly series that’s perfect for fans of Goosebumps and Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark, a girl’s dinner comes back to haunt her!
Wolver Hollow is not a normal town. The adults are too busy shuffling off to work at the old coffin factory to notice or care, but the kids know all about monsters, ghosts, and strange lights in the sky. Strange things happen in Wolver Hollow. Creepy things.
Madeline Harper does not like lima beans and she’s not afraid to make that clear. But when she gets sent to bed for not eating her vegetables, she’ll find something far worse than her mother’s frustration. A lima bean scorned is a terrible thing and it will not stop until Madeline Harper eats her vegetables!
A laugh-out-loud, ghostly Southern mystery that’s perfect for fans of Cassie Beasley and Natalie Lloyd.
Tennessee Lancaster has a hidden gift.
She can pry into folks’ memories with just a touch of their belongings. It’s something she’s always kept hidden – especially from her big, chaotic family. Their lives are already chock-full of worries about Daddy’s job and Mama’s blues without Tennie rocking the boat.
But when the Lancasters move to the mountains for a fresh start, Tennie’s gift does something new. Instead of just memories, her touch releases a ghost with a terrifying message: Trouble is coming. Tennie wants to ignore it. Except her new friend Fox – scratch that, her only friend, Fox – is desperate to go ghost hunting deep in the forest. And when Tennie frees even more of the spirits, trouble is exactly what she gets…and it hits close to home. The ghosts will be heard, and now Tennie must choose between keeping secrets or naming an ugly truth that could tear her family apart.
Magic and mayhem abound in this spooky story about family legacies, first friendships, and how facing the ghosts inside can sometimes mean stirring up a little bit of ruckus.
From master of middle grade horror Mary Downing Hahn, a new thriller about bravery, unexpected friendship, and sinister cats that will captivate readers with its chilling mix of mystery and magic.
Zoey loves spending the summer with her Aunt Alice, and her aunt’s new house is the perfect place to cozy up with a good book. But she’s unnerved by the overgrown forest next door, which is creepy even in the daytime and full of eerie sounds at night. Worse, there are rumors in town of a dark force in those woods. And Zoey can’t deny that the wild black cats who live there seem to be watching her.
When she encounters a mean old woman who claims to be their owner, Zoey realizes there’s more to the cats than meets the eye. But little does she know that the closer she comes to discovering their secret, the more danger she’s in…
Bestselling author Shawn Sarles’ most terrifying YA horror yet…
It starts innocently enough. Four kids – three girls, one boy – are at one of their houses, playing games. One of them has read about “Bloody Mary” and the idea that if you look into a mirror and say her name thirteen times, she will show you the future. Some legends say she’ll show you your one true love or a skull to mark your death within five years. Others say that conjuring Bloody Mary will bring her into your world.
Both sets of legends are true. The kids go through with the act, saying her name thirteen times. One girl looks in the mirror and sees her longtime crush. One girl looks in the mirror and sees the boy in the group. But she pretends to see something else. One girl looks in the mirror and sees a girl she’s never seen before but can’t get out of her mind. And the boy…he sees a skull. But he pretends to see something else. They try to laugh it off. And mostly they forget about it. Or at least they don’t talk about it. Yes, over the next few years, whenever they look into a mirror, it’s like there’s always another figure standing in the background, getting closer.
Just short of five years later, the four of them are no longer friends, having gone on separate paths. The girl whose house it was has always tried to avoid the mirror they used – because she always sensed someone in the background. One morning as she’s passing by, she sees much more than her own reflection – it’s a scary figure taunting her. She startles and breaks the mirror. When the pieces are put back together (barely), the figure is gone.
That day in school, a new girl arrives. Her name is Mary…
For fans of Small Spaces and the Goosebumps series by R.L Stine comes a chilling ghost story about a girl living in the decrepit and creepy mansion, who discovers something in the woods is after her.
All Ginny Anderson wants from her summer is to sleep in, attend a mystery writing workshop, and spend time with her best friend. But when Ginny’s father ― a respected restoration expert in Chicago ― surprises the family with a month-long trip to Michigan, everything changes. They aren’t staying in a hotel like most families would. No, they’re staying in a mansion. A twenty-six room, century-old building surrounded by dense forest. Woodmoor Manor.
But unfortunately, the mansion has more problems than a little peeling wallpaper. Locals claim the surrounding woods are inhabited by mutated creatures with glowing eyes. And some say campers routinely disappear in the woods, never to be seen again.
As terrifying as it sounds, Ginny can’t shake the feeling that there’s something darker…another story she hasn’t been told. When the creaky floors and shadowy corners of the mansion seem to take on a life of their own, Ginny uncovers the wildest mystery of all: There’s more than one legend roaming Saugatuck, Michigan, and they definitely aren’t after campers.
It’s after her.
The War That Saved My Life meets Coraline in this chilling middle grade historical novel from the author of the acclaimed The Story That Cannot Be Told following an anxious young girl learning to face her fears — and her ghosts — against the backdrop of the typhoid epidemic.
Essie O’Neill is afraid of everything. She’s afraid of cats and electric lights. She’s afraid of the silver sick bell, a family heirloom that brings up frightening memories. Most of all, she’s afraid of the red door in her nightmares.
But soon Essie discovers so much more to fear. Her mother has remarried, and they must move from their dilapidated tenement in the Bronx to North Brother Island, a dreary place in the East River. That’s where Essie’s new stepfather runs a quarantine hospital for the incurable sick, including the infamous Typhoid Mary. Essie knows the island is plagued with tragedy. Years ago, she watched in horror as the ship General Slocum caught fire and sank near its shores, plummeting one thousand women and children to their deaths.
Now, something on the island is haunting Essie. And the red door from her dreams has become a reality, just down the hall from her bedroom in her terrifying new house. Convinced her stepfather is up to no good, Essie investigates. Yet to uncover the truth, she will have to face her own painful history — and what lies behind the red door.
From award-winning author Pádraig Kenny comes an action-packed middle grade fantasy about a family of monsters, perfect for fans of Jonathan Auxier and Victoria Schwab.
Mirabelle is part of a very unusual family. Between Uncle Bertram transforming into a ferocious grizzly bear and Aunt Eliza’s body being made entirely of spiders, it’s safe to say they are an extraordinary lot.
To the human residents of Rookhaven Village, the family is a threat. So long ago, a treaty was reached between them — in return for sundries and supplies, the monsters won’t eat the townspeople — and an invisible glamour was set around the perimeter of the Manor to keep strangers out.
But the glamour serves a second purpose: to keep Mirabelle and her family hidden from those who would do them harm. When two orphans — siblings Jem and Tom — stumble upon a tear in the magical field and open a door that was meant to stay locked, Mirabelle and her family are put in grave danger. A very real monster has locked onto their scent, and he has a hunger for their kind.
At turns chilling and thought-provoking, and stunningly illustrated by Edward Bettison, Pádraig Kenny’s The Monsters of Rookhaven explores difference and empathy through the eyes of characters you won’t soon forget.
An enchanting, farm-fresh debut graphic novel starring an unusual heroine who is braver than she realizes, for middle grade readers looking for a cozy, adventuresome read in the vein of Witch Boy or Be Prepared.
Garlic feels as though she’s always doing something wrong. At least with her friend Carrot by her side and the kindly Witch Agnes encouraging her, Garlic is happy to just tend her garden, where it’s nice and safe.
But when her village of vegetable folk learns that a bloodthirsty vampire has moved into the nearby castle, they all agree that, in spite of her fear and self-doubt, Garlic is the obvious choice to confront him. And with everyone counting on her, Garlic reluctantly agrees to face the mysterious vampire, hoping she has what it takes.
After all, garlic drives away vampires…right?
In this final installment of the Elizabeth Webster series, Philadelphia’s youngest barrister faces a ghostly case that will determine the future of her world.
Reeling from recent struggles in the courtroom, Elizabeth Webster is surprised when two sisters ask her to find the spirits of their parents who have been stolen by a ghost thief. But this simple matter becomes the most terrifying case of Elizabeth’s career. Soon, she finds herself battling the ghost thief himself, two cement Martha-Washington-faced dogs, and an army raised by the demon Redwing in the Chamber of Stolen Ghosts.
To find a way forward, Elizabeth will have to rely on an unexpected ally in her quest — her mother. With her mother’s history guiding her, Elizabeth will return to the Court of Uncommon Pleas to face her own self-doubts, battle the formidable Redwing, and protect the balance of natural and supernatural realms.
From a bestselling author: Miss Peregrine meets The Graveyard Book in this middle grade adventure about rival siblings running a monster mortuary.
Thirteen-year-old Molly doesn’t know how she got the short end of the stick — being raised by her neglectful father — while Dustin, the older brother she’s never met, got their mother and the keys to the family estate. But now the siblings are both orphaned, she’s come home for her inheritance, and if Dustin won’t welcome her into the family business, then she’ll happily take her half in cash.
There’s just one problem: the family business is a mortuary for monsters, and Molly’s not sure she’s ready to deal with mysterious doors, talking wolves, a rogue devourer of magic, and a secret cemetery. It’s going to take all of Dustin’s stuffy supernatural knowledge and Molly’s most heroic cosplay (plus a little help from non-human friends) for the siblings to figure it out and save the day…if only they can get along for five minutes.
Bestselling author Chuck Wendig’s middle grade debut is equal parts spooky, funny, and heartfelt — perfect for Halloween and year-round reading!