Spooky Kids' Books for Halloween and Beyond

Cows dressed as skeletons, a screaming staircase, and a teen vampire gore-fest. By Regan McMahon
Spooky Kids' Books for Halloween and Beyond

Finding the right book for your kid can be a challenge. But if you guess right and keep new ones coming, you may be on your way to raising a lifelong reader.

Check out our Essential Books for Kids and Teens guide to find more than 150 of our perennial favorites. Plus, every month we highlight a few books for different ages -- some exceptional titles that could be the perfect thing to pique your kid's interest, get your reader hooked on a new author, or rediscover an old favorite.

Here are our picks for October:

  • For kids 3 to 7, there's Click, Clack, Boo! by the award-wining team of author Doreen Cronin and illustrator Betsy Lewin. If you loved their Caldecott Honor Book Click, Clack, Moo, you'll be happy to see the barnyard crew -- cows, sheep, chickens, cats, pigs, and ducks -- once again vexing Farmer Brown. He hates Halloween and its spooky sounds, and he hides under the covers, away from trick-or-treaters and spooky sounds, while the animals host a festive costume party in the barn. The two converge to humorous effect. A good, non-scary seasonal option for little ones.
  • For readers 11 to 14, check out The Screaming Staircase: Lockwood and Co., Book 1 by Jonathan Stroud. This truly scary story of young teen ghost hunters will have even grown-ups considering sleeping with the light on. It's got skeletal remains, rooms dripping blood, descriptions of how the ghosts died violently, and, yes, that screaming staircase to give you some major creeps. But it's a really well-done and exciting page-turner. If you can take scary stuff, you'll be very satisfied.
  • For teens 15 to 17, there's The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black, author of Doll Bones and co-author of The Spiderwick Chronicles. Much darker than her middle-grade fiction, it's set in a violent, bloody, post-vampire-apocalypse world, where vampire gore and lore have permeated pop culture and social media. For example, vampire hunters are on reality TV shows; popular blogs show video feeds of nonstop, rave-style vampire balls in the quarantine area known as Coldtown; and gift-shop baby tees say things like Corpsebait. Here, teens want to be vampires. It's creepy, gory, and intense, but the writing is a cut above most vampire fare. It's not for the faint of heart and best for mature teens.

For more spooky suggestions, check out our "top picks" lists, including Vampires, Werewolves, and Zombies, Ghost Stories, and Halloween Stories. Also, remember that October is National Bullying Prevention Month, so check out our list of Bullying Books, which includes several books that deal with kids being bullied online and our guide to Books That Teach Empathy.

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About Regan McMahon

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Regan has been reviewing children's books for more than a decade. A journalist and former book editor for the San Francisco Chronicle, she cites as one of her toughest assignments having to read and review the 784-page... Read more

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