We’re heading into the spooky season, but I’m a member of a group of writers, Spooky Middle Grade, that promotes the fact that spooky books are favorites year-round. We’re not the only ones who think that. Years ago I was listening to a panel of school librarians. When they were asked what genre of children’s books are asked for the most, they all agreed it was horror. Horror and spooky go hand-in-hand for middle-grade. I like to think of horror as the being on the scarier side of the spectrum with spooky lighter, but some people use them synonymously. So, here are 10 reasons why I love reading (and writing) middle-grade spooky books.
MG Spooky books can be funny
Laughter and scares are two sides of the same coin, and spooky middle-grade books shows that wonderfully. One of my favorites is THE TOTAL ECLIPSE OF NESTOR LOPEZ by Adrianna Cuevas. This award-winning novel is as hilarious as it is spooky. I’m also excited to read DON’T WANT TO BE YOUR MONSTER by Deke Moulton. Called “humorous and delightfully spooky”, MONSTER was just released a couple months ago.
MG Spooky books can be mysteries or adventures
Many spooky middle-grade books are also mysteries, liked Fleur Bradley’s MIDNIGHT AT THE BARCLAY HOTEL, and Marina Cohen’s THE INN BETWEEN. And Janet Fox’s THE ARTIFACT HUNTERS and Sarah Cannon’s TWIST are both spooky and adventures.
MG Spooky books can deal with tough topics
Young readers are just learning how to deal with tough topics, like grief and depression, and many spooky middle grade books can be guides. Some of my favorites are Kim Ventrella’s SKELETON TREE, Ally Malinenko’s THIS APPEARING HOUSE, THE NIGHTMARE HOUSE by Sarah Allen, and Lora Senf’s THE CLACKITY. Bonus, Lora has a sequel, THE NIGHTHOUSE KEEPER, coming out on Oct. 17.
MG Spooky books have a spectrum of scary
I’ll admit it: I, a grown woman, found HIDE AND SEEKER by Daka Hermon pretty scary. (Of course, I was listening to the audiobook while alone painting a closed powder room with only a flashlight, so that could have contributed.) But I can’t wait to read Daka’s latest, NIGHTMARE KING, which came out on Tuesday. Lindsay Currie’s latest MG horror, IT FOUND US, looks like it’s going to be higher on the scary chart too, judging by the cover. But there are spooky titles that are lighter, like S.A. Larsen’s MOTLEY EDUCATION series, A TOUCH OF RUCKUS by Ash Van Otterloo, and NIGHT OF THE LIVING CUDDLE BUNNIES by Jonathan Rosen.
MG Spooky books can show us different cultures
I mentioned Adrianna Cuevas above, but her books deserve to be in this category as well. Her newest, MARI AND THE CURSE OF EL COCODRILO, weaves Cuban culture and myth into an adventure about breaking a curse and comes out on Oct. 3. One of my favorite spooky books from the past few years is JOSEPHINE AGAINST THE SEA by Shakirah Bourne. In this book, mythology from the Caribbean is written into a story about a mischievous girl in real-world Barbados.
MG Spooky books can be graphic novels
If you haven’t checked out the spooky fun in Ira Marcks’ SHARK SUMMER or Reina Telgemeier’s GHOSTS, you must! Not only are the stories great, but the artwork is fantastic and heightens the spookiness, but in a fun way. You should also read the WARREN THE 13TH series written by Tania Del Rio and illustrated by Will Staehle. They’re not graphic novels, but highly illustrated.
MG Spooky books make great series
Middle-grade readers love a good series, especially ones that also have fun scary worlds. There’s a reason why there are like a thousand Goosebumps books. But I also love the FRIGHT WATCH series by Lorien Lawrence, THE BOOKS OF ELSEWHERE by Jacqueline West, and Darcy Marks’ series of GROUNDED FOR ALL ETERNITY and the newer THE AFTERLIFE OF THE PARTY. A newer series I’m excited about comes from Rob Renzetti: The first book, THE HORRIBLE BAG OF TERRIBLE THINGS, came out this year and THE TWISTED TOWER OF ENDLESS TORMENT is due in 2024.
MG Spooky books help children build their bravery
Teachers, librarians and students often ask me why spooky middle-grade books are important, and I always tell them the same answer: Spooky MG books help children build their bravery in a safe place. Our real world can be very scary to kids. There are strange noises, zooming cars, tense conversations they don’t understand, dark closets and corners. Kids deal with these and more every day. When kids read books that scare them, however, if they get to a part that’s too scary, they can snap the book closed and walk away until they’re reading to face that fear again. And they will get ready quickly, because they’ll want to see how the story ends. Spooky middle-grade books are places where kids can explore their fears while knowing they’ll always have an exit.
MG Spooky books are great teaching tools
Spooky books encompass so many different types of story-telling, while also giving young readers really fun stories that they love. This makes them great teaching tools for plot, suspense techniques, and even language. My book THE BOY, THE BOAT, AND THE BEAST uses a lot of figurative language and I know teachers who use the book in their classrooms. To help, I developed some creative writing lesson examples from the book and they’re downloadable for free on my website.
MG Spooky books are written and read by awesome people
Yep, I’ve met some of the most wonderful people since my THE BOY, THE BOAT, AND THE BEAST came out. They like to write stories that give our readers goosebumps, but they also like to make readers laugh, be brave and feel. I’m honored to be among them.
What’s your favorite spooky middle-grade book?