Not-So-Scary Monster Middle-Grade!

What does a mom with strep throat + a child with strep throat + a soccer tournament + an archery championship + a two day SCBWI conference + out-of-town guests = ??

You guessed it.

A very late Mixed-Up Files Post!

Your patience (and my persistence) paid off though, because I have an awesome book list just in time for Halloween!

Not all readers enjoy scary books. If they did, I could recommend quite a few bookst. Neil Gaiman’s CORALINE, and just about any ghost story ever written by Mary Downing Hahn. Or more recently two hits by Claire Legrand: THE CAVENDISH HOME FOR BOYS AND GIRLS and THE YEAR OF SHADOWS.

But since many of us feel our skin crawl a little too easily, might I suggest some lighter faire?


My daughter read this book and loved it. She says it reminds her of Monster’s Inc. I’ll be taking this off my shelf to read this week!

the creature departmentIt’s a tentacled, inventive, gooey, world in there. . . .
Elliot Von Doppler and his friend Leslie think nothing ever happens in Bickleburgh, except inside the gleaming headquarters of DENKi-3000—the world’s eighth-largest electronics factory.  
Beneath the glass towers and glittering skywalks, there’s a rambling old mansion from which all the company’s amazing inventions spring forth. And no one except Uncle Archie knows what’s behind the second-to-last door at the end of the hall.
Until Elliot and Leslie are invited to take a glimpse inside.
They find stooped, troll-like creatures with jutting jaws and broken teeth. Tiny winged things that sparkle as they fly. And huge, hulking, hairy nonhumans (with horns). It is unlike anything they’ve ever seen.
But when Chuck Brickweather threatens to shut down the DENKi-3000 factory if a new product isn’t presented soon, the creatures know they are in danger. And when Uncle Archie vanishes, it’s up to Elliot, Leslie, and every one of the unusual, er, “employees” to create an invention so astonishing it will save the Creature Department.

GOBBLED BY GHORKS by Robert Paul Weston

Okay, okay. Don’t get too excited. This one doesn’t release until November 13th, but that gives you plenty of time to read the first book and drool in anticipation as you await book two!Gobbled

When a singing telegram arrives with some seriously stomach-churning news, the Creature Department is once again thrown into an invention frenzy. Rumor has it that monstrous ghorks have taken the creatures of Heppleworth’s Food Factory hostage. And worse, they are threatening to turn them into tasty treats!

The Creature Department and their human friends, Elliot and Leslie, sneak into Heppleworth’s disguised as performers in an all-singing, all-dancing dinner-theater cabaret. There they discover the five types of ghorks that had previously caused them a whole lot of trouble: nose ghorks, eye ghorks, ear ghorks, mouth ghorks, and hand ghorks—one for each of the five senses. But then they stumble upon something else: a sixth ghork, equipped with a mysterious sixth sense!

When the sixth ghork’s sixth sense is finally revealed, it is even more outlandish than anyone imagined; and the only way to save the day is to make a dangerous deal. But if the deal goes wrong, Elliot, Leslie, and every last creature will be… gobbled by ghorks!


I read this book last year and absolutely fell in love with the laugh-out-loud humor, the awkward memories of making friends, and the lesson learned about friendships. I’m thrilled to see there’s a sequel to add to my list!

how to make friends and monsters

Some Friends Are Just Worth Making

For Howard Boward, science genius, making friends in middle school is hard. The other kids have more fun creatively expanding Howard’s name than actually hanging out, as in How-weird or How-Lame. . So, why not actually make a friend? A little wonder putty, some DNA, a few accidentally spilled chemicals and—boom!—instant friend. Monster friend, that is. Franklin ends up being cool in middle school, and he helps Howard climb the uber-popular ladder, becoming How-Cool.  But the new fame and friendship isn’t exactly everything Howard hoped. Turns out real friendship might not be so simple, even when you create your own friends from scratch.


monster bots

Sometimes, being smart just isn’t enough

It s been a rough semester for Howard Boward, science genius. Not only is he having to dodge winter s most feared weapon (snowballs), his close friend, Winnie McKinney, is barely speaking to him. If that weren t enough, he s the favorite target of some bullies who seem determined to make life at Dolley Madison Middle School as miserable as possible. But then Howard learns about an upcoming robot-building contest finally a chance to show off his science skills and beat archrival Gerald G-Force Forster Unfortunately, the only way to win is by using his secret monster goo, a formula that has terrifying side effects. Can Howard resist the temptation? Or will he unleash a robot rampage that could destroy the town and ruin the school dance?”


All right. I know. It’s technically a science book, but c’mon! With a title like Frank Einstein, I just had to put it on the list!

Frank Einstein

Frank Einstein loves figuring out how the world works by creating household contraptions that are part science, part imagination, and definitely unusual. After an uneventful experiment in his garage-lab, a lightning storm and flash of electricity bring Frank’s inventions—the robots Klink and Klank—to life! Not exactly the ideal lab partners, the wisecracking Klink and the overly expressive Klank nonetheless help Frank attempt to perfect his Antimatter Motor . . . until Frank’s archnemesis, T. Edison, steals Klink and Klank for his evil doomsday plan! Using real science, Jon Scieszka has created a unique world of adventure and science fiction—an irresistible chemical reaction for middle-grade readers.

THE LITTLE VAMPIRE SERIES by Angela Sommer-Bodenburg

Forever a classic for those children who like monsters along with a good laugh!

The little Vampirethe little vampire 2







While we’re talking about vampires, have you read the TOTALLY LAME VAMPIRE SERIES by Tim Collins? That’s not an insult! It’s the title of the series! See for yourself.

Lame vampirelame vampire 2lame vampire 3

Finally, a series of fairy tale/monster stories with themes of friendship, self-acceptance, peer pressure, and fitting in.

MONSTER HIGH by Lisi Harrison and EVER AFTER HIGH by Shannon Hale

Monster high

ever after high








And yes, I would even include my own books in this list.
The SCARILY EVER LAUGHTER series by Amie & Bethanie Borst

Cinderskella Cover

little dead riding hood









So that’s my list of not-so-scary books perfect for the timid readers among us. What are some of your favorites? Do you have a recommendation to share? Leave a comment for us!

Amie Borst likes not-so-scary books, not for her kids, but for herself! Goosebumps aren’t for the faint of heart. She writes not-so-scary middle-grade books. Find her on her blog.

  1. Great list, Amie! A monster-based picture book that even had my middle-grade kids laughing is FRANKENSTEIN MAKES A SANDWICH by Adam Rex. It’s a fun one!

  2. So glad to hear your daughter loved the Ever After High books and my series as well!

    How did I forget The Graveyard book in my list?! Of course!

    Rosi – As you can tell, I’m not a fan of being scared either. I hope you enjoy the Totally Lame books 🙂

  3. My 8yo absolutely loved the Ever After High books and I got her Cinderskella/Little Dead Riding Hood to read next. She LOVED them. My son and I like a little creepier fare and Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book is probably my favorite spooky MG read.

    I’ve got a few new ones to add to our list after this post though–thanks!!!

  4. Thanks for this list. I really don’t like to be too scared. I think the Totally Lame books are right up my alley.