Saturday, October 29, 2011

Truly creepy stories for older kids (ages 9 - 12)

My students clamor for really scary stories, especially at this time of the year. Here's the problem, though - I have never liked horror stories. I have a very active imagination and will get completely terrified by scary stories. So I have to be ready to recommend stories that I don't read. That being said, what better phrase to hook a student than to say, "This grossed me out - I couldn't read it." Coool! My librarian couldn't read this but I can!

My students love, love, love Alvin Schwartz's Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. The original version with illustrations by Stephan Gammell are certainly gruesome and popular in our library. But our students are also enjoying the new edition with illustrations by Brett Helquist - these illustrations are a bit less macabre and nightmare-inducing. Schwartz's stories are short and accessible, perfect for hooking a reluctant reader. I especially like the way he includes notes at the end about the sources for each tale, noting the folktale and urban legends these scary stories come from.

If your kids like those creepy stories, but are ready for longer short stories, check out Robert San Souci's Haunted Houses - it definitely got under my skin. You’ll find ten tales of haunted houses in this collection by Robert San Souci, one of San Francisco’s great storytellers and folklore collectors. These stories are not for the faint-hearted or those prone to nightmares, but for kids looking for spine-tingling tales, this is your perfect find.

The newest addition to our school library is Chris Grabenstein's Haunted Mystery series. The early reviews are coming in and kids are loving it. They are grabbed by this series' blend of mystery, suspense and macabre humor. This series follows eleven year old Zack Jennings as he moves from New York City to Connecticut. Even in New York, Zack is sure that he can see things, strange things, around him. But in Connecticut, he must deal with ghosts left behind from previous times.

Here's the author's summary for the newest book in the series, The Black Heart Crypt:
"Halloween. Dressing up, eating candy, carving pumpkins, and going to parties.
Most kids' favorite night of the year.
Not Zack Jennings.
Zack knows that on Halloween, the veil separating the ghostly plane from the human world is very, very thin. Powerful spirits can cross over and do some serious mischief."
One interesting feature that teachers might want to know is that these books have reading levels of late 3rd grade, early 4th grade levels. So while they are creepy enough to draw in 5th and 6th graders, they are written with vocabulary and sentence structure that is accessible to reluctant readers.

At the moment, our students are debating whether these books need to be read in order to make sense. The Haunted Mystery books are:
  1. The Crossroads
  2. The Hanging Hill
  3. The Smoky Corridor
  4. The Black Heart Crypt

To get a sense of this series, take a look a this trailer for The Black Heart Crypt, book 4 in the Haunted Mystery series.

The review copy of Haunted Houses was kindly sent by Macmillan Books. The review copies of the Haunted Mysteries series was kindly sent by Random House Books. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2011 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books.


  1. I'll stick with the creepy fun Halloween picture books! I got really creeped out just reading Tale Dark and Grimm! I have lots of kids who like the scary stories a lot though! :)

  2. I was really creeped out but it was really good at the same time!!!!