I know it’s a little bit late for a Halloween special, but seeing as year 5 at my school are currently looking at Horror stories, I thought it might be worth putting together a few books with creepy themes to keep you shivering through the dark frosty nights.
Now – these books come with a note of caution: in general, it’s harder to find decent horror books aimed at kids than it was in the 90s – Just like with horror aimed at adults, horror for kids went out of fashion and everyone recreated their books as thrillers instead. Many of the books out there now are actually comedies with elements of horror tropes used as set dressing. That’s not to say they are bad – far from it in fact – some of these books are absolutely amazing, but it’s worth thinking about.
For genuinely creepy stories, R. L. Stine is still king. There are so many goosebumps books out there, and if your child is looking for something to scare them silly, then you won’t go far wrong by getting hold of these. I’d also recommend The Demon Headmaster by Gillian Cross as a really creepy book. I always thought that the thought of a headmaster capable of hypnotising most of the school into his submission was a terrifying concept, and I still shudder to think of it! The Midnight Library books by Nick Shadow are also worth a read – collections of creepy stories that will put a chill up your spine!
Neil Gaiman is also a master of creepy stories, and both The Graveyard Book and Coraline are incredibly creepy books. Coraline especially is disturbing, with the button eyes of the other mother definitely among the things that raise the hairs on the back of my neck. A word to the wise though – many of Neil Gaiman’s other books are definitely aimed at adults rather than children, with some decidedly adult themes in them.
Moving into books that are somewhere between spooky and comedy, I’d like to recommend Skulduggery Pleasant. This is a pretty hefty series, but the basic premise is that Skulduggery Pleasant is a Detective and a magician. He’s also dead, and is effectively an animated skeleton. It combines a few elements of film noir with horror imagery and a hefty amount of humour. There are all sorts of evil creatures in the Skulduggery Pleasant universe which wouldn’t be out of place in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the series veers more into the young adult category in later books (at time of writing, there are ten). This book series is EXCELLENT for anyone who particularly enjoys action, and it is definitely one of my favourite books for all out insane battles that wouldn’t be far out of place in a Bond-Style action movie.
For slightly younger readers and those who prefer their horror to be more Addams Family rather than Paranormal Activity, there’s a lot more recent work out there. Guy Bass’s Stitch Head books are FANTASTIC, and they’re genuinely hilarious.Marcus Sedgewick’s Elf Girl and Raven Boy and The Raven Mysteries books are also really good.
It would be impossible to talk about spooky picture books without mentioning Allan Ahlberg’s Funnybones. It’s a genuine classic and no child’s home library is complete without it. Likewise Meg and Mog and Winnie the Witch. I also recommend The Ghost Library by David Melling. It glows in the dark, which is always a plus.