Written by Emma Kerr
Early Childhood and Elementary School Librarian
Looking for a few good haunts? It doesn’t matter if you’re celebrating Halloween or sitting around a campfire on an Autumn evening, there’s nothing like a spooky ghost story. These paranormal books are full of delightfully creepy tales about ghosts, ghouls, and other supernatural spirits.
From the kids who like super-scary stories to the ones who prefer lighter tales of friendly ghosts or courageous ghost hunters, there’s sure to be something here that will give them goosebumps. This hand-picked list is full of spooky stories that really put the “boo” in books.
Spooky Tales for Children
Leo: A Ghost Story
By Mac Barnett
“Leo: A Ghost Story” is a charming tale written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Christian Robinson. The story revolves around Leo, a friendly ghost who enjoys drawing and making delicious snacks. After living alone in his house for a long time, Leo’s presence becomes unwanted when a new family moves in. In an attempt to find companionship, Leo leaves his home and explores the city. During his exploration, he befriends a girl named Jane, who mistakes him for an imaginary friend. The narrative unfolds as Leo and Jane’s friendship develops, offering a heartwarming exploration of loneliness, friendship, and the joy of unexpected connections.
The Day of the Dead
By Bob Barner
“The Day of the Dead” is a bilingual children’s book that follows two youngsters as they celebrate their ancestors during the vibrant Latin American holiday, El Día de los Muertos. The story depicts the children spreading marigold petals to guide the spirits of the dead back home to join in the festivities. The narrative includes elements of singing, dancing, and reminiscing, creating a colorful introduction to the traditions and customs of this cultural celebration.
By Norman Bridwell
“Clifford’s Halloween” is a classic children’s story that follows the adventures of Clifford, the big red dog, during Halloween. The story centers around the excitement and anticipation of Halloween, with Clifford deciding what costume to wear for the occasion. The narrative unfolds with Clifford getting dressed up and joining in the festive spirit of Halloween. This timeless classic provides a delightful and engaging tale for young readers, capturing the charm and playfulness of Clifford as he celebrates the spooktacular holiday.
Mercy Watson: Princess in Disguise
By Kate DiCamillo
“Mercy Watson: Princess in Disguise” is a delightful children’s book that follows the whimsical adventures of Mercy Watson, a lovable pig. When the Watsons decide to dress Mercy in a formfitting princess dress for Halloween, complete with a tiara, they anticipate a charming and amusing experience. The story is filled with treats, tricky turns, hijinks, and high humor, making it an engaging read for young audiences. Mercy’s trick-or-treat outing as a princess takes unexpected and entertaining twists, providing a humorous and heartwarming Halloween tale.
La mansión misteriosa
By Carmen Gil
“La mansión misteriosa” is a captivating Spanish children’s book that explores the mysteries of a peculiar house. The story invites readers to discover the creatures residing inside this enigmatic mansion, ranging from ghosts and witches to dragons and vampires. With an endless parade of horrific creatures, the narrative unfolds in a playful and imaginative way, making it an engaging read for young audiences. The book, illustrated by Riki Blanco, takes children on an exploration of literary wonders, combining creativity and curiosity as they uncover the secrets of the mysterious mansion.
Scaredy Squirrel at Night
By Mélanie Watt
“Scaredy Squirrel at Night” is a delightful children’s book that follows the adventures of Scaredy Squirrel, who is afraid to go to sleep at night. Scaredy Squirrel employs various tricks to stay awake, preventing him from facing his nighttime fears. The story takes an amusing turn as Scaredy Squirrel sets up traps to scare away monsters that might appear in his dreams. Filled with humor and imaginative illustrations, the book explores the whimsical strategies Scaredy Squirrel uses to avoid bad dreams about dragons, ghosts, vampire bats, and polka-dot monsters. With its engaging narrative and playful illustrations, the book captivates young readers.
By Phil Roxbee Cox
“Mystery Mansion” is a captivating tale set in a place filled with dark secrets and terrifying nightmares. The story revolves around Harry, the boot boy, who attempts to ignore the ominous mysteries within the mansion and focus on his job. However, as he delves deeper into the secrets, he discovers unsettling truths that challenge him to confront the eerie happenings. The narrative unfolds with a suspenseful atmosphere, keeping readers engaged as Harry unravels the mysteries surrounding Mystery Mansion. The book blends elements of mystery and horror, creating an intriguing and suspenseful reading experience.
By Eric Geron
“Poultrygeist” is a whimsical and humorous children’s book that follows the journey of a little spring chicken who, after being flattened by a semi-truck, becomes a friendly ghost. Unlike typical ghosts, this chicken doesn’t want to haunt anyone. Instead, she aims to be a friendly presence. The story takes a playful turn as the chicken, despite her friendly intentions, inadvertently scares other ghosts away with a scary face. The book blends humor and charm as it explores the unconventional adventures of a chicken-turned-ghost, offering an entertaining read for young audiences.
By Emma Fischel
“Midnight Ghosts” is a spine-chilling story for children growing in reading confidence and ability. The narrative unfolds when Adam and Sally arrive at Twelve Bells End, discovering that everything is not entirely as it seems. The suspenseful plot revolves around the mysterious disappearance of their parents and grandfather, leaving Marko and Miranda home alone. Two strangers then enter the scene, presenting the siblings with a mysterious letter, setting the stage for a thrilling and eerie adventure. The story combines elements of mystery and the supernatural, making it an engaging read for young readers exploring stories that offer both suspense and excitement.
Ivy + Bean and the Ghost That Had to Go
By Annie Barrows
“Ivy + Bean and the Ghost That Had to Go” is a captivating children’s book that follows the adventures of best friends Ivy and Bean. In this second installment of the series, Ivy and Bean believe they have encountered a ghost in the school bathroom. The imaginative duo concocts a potion and devises a plan to drive the ghost away, leading to a series of humorous and mischievous escapades. The story explores themes of friendship, bravery, and creativity, making it an engaging read for young readers. With its playful narrative and relatable characters, the book offers a delightful blend of mystery and humor, appealing to children who enjoy entertaining and imaginative tales.
The Graveyard Book
By Neil Gaiman
“The Graveyard Book” is a captivating fantasy novel that follows the extraordinary childhood of a boy named Bod. After his family is brutally murdered, Bod is taken in by the ghosts of a nearby graveyard, who raise and protect him. The novel traces Bod’s coming-of-age journey as he navigates the challenges of the supernatural world and encounters various mythical beings. The narrative weaves elements of mystery, adventure, and friendship, exploring themes of identity, belonging, and the blurred boundaries between the living and the dead. As Bod grows, he learns about his mysterious past and faces the dangers posed by the man Jack, the one responsible for his family’s tragedy. Gaiman’s masterful storytelling creates a unique and enchanting atmosphere, making “The Graveyard Book” a spellbinding read for both young and adult audiences.
The House with Chicken Legs
By Sophie Anderson
“The House with Chicken Legs” is an enchanting novel, inspired by traditional Baba Yaga tales. The story follows twelve-year-old Marinka, who dreams of a real friend while living with her grandmother in a magical house with chicken legs. The house is sentient and has the ability to travel, guiding the spirits of the dead through The Gate. Marinka, feeling the weight of her destiny as a Yaga, longs for a true companion. The narrative explores themes of friendship, life, death, and the balance between light and darkness. Marinka’s journey unfolds in a world where magical elements, such as sentient houses and spirit guiding, seamlessly blend with heartfelt emotions and universal coming-of-age struggles.
The Magician’s Elephant
By Kate DiCamillo
“The Magician’s Elephant” is a mysterious and enchanting novel centered around ten-year-old Peter Augustus Duchene. A fortuneteller predicts that an elephant will lead Peter to his lost sister, setting him on a captivating journey of self-discovery and wonder. Peter, an orphan living with a soldier who once allied with his father, embarks on a quest that intertwines fate, magic, and unexpected encounters. As the story unfolds, themes of trust, the extraordinary, and the unexpected are woven into a haunting fable.
By Pseudonymous Bosch
“Bad Magic” revolves around the protagonist Clay, whose magician older brother, Max-Ernest, mysteriously disappears. Clay, harboring a deep resentment towards magic, blames it for his brother’s vanishing act. The plot unfolds when words from Max-Ernest’s journal start appearing as graffiti on Clay’s school walls, sparking a series of mysterious events. As Clay delves into the world of magic to uncover the truth behind his brother’s disappearance, he grapples with eerie happenings, survival training, ghostly encounters, and the enigmatic elements of a summer camp. The story weaves together themes of family, magic, and self-discovery, creating an engaging and suspenseful narrative.
By Marcia Brown
“Shadow” is a children’s picture book that originated from Brown’s translation of the poem “La Féticheuse” by Blaise Cendrars. Published in 1982, the book tells the story of Shadow, blending the past and present in a rich African narrative. The illustrations, done by Caldecott Medal winner Marcia Brown, contribute to the delightfully spooky atmosphere of the story. The book is inspired by conversations with shamans in African villages and storytellers around fires, providing a unique and culturally infused reading experience. Through its artistic and narrative elements, “Shadow” invites readers into a world where folklore and mystique come together.
The Night Gardener
By Jonathan Auxier
“The Night Gardener” is a middle-grade ghost story that follows two Irish siblings, Molly and Kip, who flee their homeland and end up in 19th-century England. Orphaned and alone, they find employment at a mysterious, decaying manor with a dark secret. The narrative revolves around the siblings’ quest to unravel the mysteries surrounding the eerie occurrences at the mansion, particularly the enigmatic night gardener. The novel is a blend of mystery and horror, weaving a tale that explores themes of greed and the supernatural. Jonathan Auxier’s work is praised for its action-rich fantasy-adventure and its incorporation of Victorian story conventions, creating a captivating and atmospheric reading experience.
By Faith Erin Hicks
“Pumpkinheads” is a graphic novel. The story centers around two friends, Deja and Josiah, who work at a pumpkin patch together every autumn. As they embark on their last shift before going off to college, the friends decide to make the most of the night by exploring the pumpkin patch’s attractions and indulging in seasonal treats. Throughout their adventure, the characters navigate the complexities of friendship, personal growth, and the bittersweet nature of saying goodbye. The novel combines Rowell’s storytelling prowess with Hicks’ captivating artwork, creating a heartwarming and visually appealing tale that captures the essence of fall and the transitional phases in life.
By Guy Bass
“Stitch Head” is a spooky and whimsical story set in the maze-like dungeons of Castle Grotteskew. The tale revolves around Professor Erasmus, an eccentric and frightfully insane scientist who conducts bizarre experiments on living things. At the heart of the narrative is Stitch Head, a lonely almost-human creature created by Professor Erasmus. The character is both gruesome and scarily witty, navigating a sinister world filled with engaging monsters. The story takes a captivating turn when a traveling circus ringmaster, Fulbert Freakfinder, promises to make Stitch Head a star, prompting the creature to wonder if there could be another life for him beyond the dungeons. The novel combines elements of horror, humor, and adventure, making it an entertaining read for those who enjoy tales of peculiar creatures and mysterious worlds.
By Vera Brosgol
“Anya’s Ghost” is a graphic novel that follows the story of Anya, a teenage outsider struggling to fit in. While waiting for rescue in an old well, Anya discovers a skeleton and encounters the ghost of a young woman named Emily Reilly who had been dead for ninety years. Emily helps Anya escape and later follows her home. The narrative explores Anya’s attempts to reconcile her various roles and the complexities of her immigrant family and friendships. As Anya grapples with her sense of identity, the ghostly presence adds a layer of mystery and intrigue to the tale. The novel delves into themes of fitting in, self-discovery, and the impact of the past on the present, creating a compelling and poignant narrative.
Revenge of Superstition Mountain
By Elise Broach
“Revenge of Superstition Mountain” is the third and final book in the action-packed trilogy that follows the Barker brothers—Simon, Henry, and Jack. The brothers, along with their friend Delilah, embark on a mysterious adventure as they climb up Superstition Mountain. In this concluding installment, the Barker brothers and Delilah hope to solve the remaining mysteries and uncover the secrets of Superstition Mountain. The story is filled with danger, intrigue, and the quest for hidden treasures, making it a thrilling and suspenseful read for those who enjoy mysteries and adventures.
Constable & Toop
By Gareth P. Jones
Constable and Toop is a ghostly tale set in Victorian London. Sam Toop, who resides in a funeral parlor with his father, possesses the ability to see ghosts. The narrative unfolds against the backdrop of a mysterious and dreadful ailment called “Black Rot,” a phantasmagorical wasting disease infesting haunted realms. The protagonist, Sam, becomes entangled in a complex web of interlocking storylines when he ventures into a church infected with Black Rot. The story delves into the world of ghosts, their plight, and Sam’s involvement in unraveling the mysteries surrounding the ghostly realm. With a mix of wit, action, and an engaging cast of characters, Gareth P. Jones weaves a captivating and entertaining ghost story in the atmospheric setting of Victorian London.
By Holly Black
“Doll Bones” is a gothic fantasy that revolves around three friends – Zach, Poppy, and Alice. The trio embarks on a supernatural quest when their innocent role-playing game transforms into a mission to return a haunted doll to its rightful place. The storyline takes unexpected turns as the friends encounter challenges, revealing the complexity of their friendship and the eerie consequences of their adventure. As Zach, Alice, and Poppy navigate the mysteries surrounding the bone china doll and the ghostly Queen it represents, the narrative explores themes of friendship, courage, and the blurred line between fantasy and reality. Holly Black weaves a gripping tale that delves into the fantastical realms of childhood imagination, making “Doll Bones” a compelling and mysterious read.
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