STEM Tuesday — Spooky and Scary Science– Book List

Who needs a shivery, shuddery story about werewolves and zombies when there are truly scary things living all around us?

American Murderer: The Parasite that Haunted the South by Gail Jarrow

This book is about microscopic worms living in the soil… invisible vampires that enter your body through your bare feet, travel to your intestines, and stay there for years sucking your blood and draining you of energy. The focus is on Charles Wardell Stile, the scientist who discovered the worm and played an important role in educating the public on treatments and eradication. There are gross diagrams and photos of the vampiric worms and a not so subtle reminder to wear your shoes when you head out on Halloween night – or any time.

Something Rotten, A Fresh Look at Roadkill by Heather L. Montgomery

This book is not for squeamish souls; it is full of parasites, intestines, and bloody bodies. At the same time, it remains an entertaining and informative read. We meet David Laurencio, the archivist of the DOR (Dead on Road) collection at the Auburn University Museum of Natural History. Every specimen bears a toe tag with an identification number that references a file. A file filled with notes about where the animal was found, when, how it was killed, its gender, and DNA information. By mapping where animals are killed, scientists can learn more about where they live, what they eat, and whether they are migrating because of environmental changes.

Animal Zombies by Chana Steifel

Welcome to the Zombie Zone, where you’ll meet harmless ladybugs turned into monsters by parasitic wasps, zombie cockroaches and crickets and ants. You’ll meet plenty of other scary monsters, and the scientists who study these real-life bloodsuckers and body snatchers. But don’t worry – there’s a list of items you can stow in your very own Zombie Emergency Kit.

Zombie makers: True Stories Of Nature’s Undead by Rebecca L. Johnson

Zombies are real, and they’re closer than you think! Fortunately, the zombie-makers don’t (yet) attack humans. But they do take over the bodies of insects, spiders, snails, and rats. In this book you’ll meet the fungi, worms, wasps, and viruses that take over animal brains – and learn the science behind the story. And you might be inspired to do some zombie hunting in your own backyard!

Spi-ku: A Clutter of Short Verse on Eight Legs by Leslie Bulion

No matter where you are, there’s probably a spider lurking nearby. Some are busy weaving webs, others riding silk balloons through the air, and yet others on the prowl. In this book you’ll meet diving spiders, dancing spiders, and social spiders. You’ll learn how they kill and digest their prey, engage in foolery – and even how they become prey themselves. There are great tips on how to hunt for spiders at night plus a poetry guide for folks who want links to literature.

Yuck, You Suck!: Poems About Animals That Sip, Slurp, Suck by Jane Yolen & Heidi E. Y. Stemple

These poems highlight thirteen real-life suckers that live on our planet. You may even have been a victim of a vampire! Think about those mosquito bites and the yucky leeches that stuck to your toes when you went wading in a stream. Not every featured creature sucks blood; there are bees and butterflies (they suck nectar) and pigeons who can use their beak as a straw. Back matter includes a fun list of anatomical terms for parts that suck.

Monster Science: Could Monsters Survive (and Thrive!) in the Real World? by Helaine Becker

Despite all the stories, monsters aren’t real. But if they were … what science would guide the lives of vampire and bigfoot, zombies and werewolves and sea monsters? Beginning with Frankenstein, we look at what makes a monster, and explore whether you could bring the dead to life using electricity. [note: Using a defibrillator to restart a heart that’s been stopped for a few seconds is a far cry from bringing a corpse to life!]

Scary Animals (Gross and Frightening Animal Facts) by Stella Tarakson

Combining detailed photographs with speech bubbles and comic asides, this creepy book from Australia (where a fair portion of the animals can kill a human) examines common phobias – freaky spiders, giant snakes, and swooping birds – looks at spiky creatures, skulls and super strong jaws, mysterious murders (who knew sugar gliders were so violent), myths and missing species, and a host of spooky spaces where animals live. It includes a bit on genetics and a glossary.

Toxic: The World’s Deadliest Creatures by Ico Romero

After grounding the reader in the difference between poisons, toxins, and venoms, this boldly illustrated book explores poison dart frogs, unique venomous mammals, ocean stingers, snakes, fantastical fish and jellyfish, insects, spiders, and more. An excellent discussion on the career of a toxicologist, a fascinating guessing game (“Healthy, Sick or Dead?”), and a glossary round oud out this engaging book on deadly creatures.

Gory Details: Adventures From the Dark Side of Science by Erika Engelhaupt

Though slightly older, the humorous, manageable chapters (5 to 7 pages), examine “gross, taboo, or morbid topics…up close, through the lens of science.” Including, whether dead owners would be eaten by their dog, maggot farming, head transplants, face mites, and the worst places to be stung. A few chapters like roach invasions and eye worms are not for the squeamish or to be read before bed. With interviews of scientists in each field, an index, and a detailed list of sources this is a great book to spark curiosity or jump start research into some scary, gory science.

Frightlopedia: An encyclopedia of Everything Scary, Creepy, and Spine-Chilling, from Arachnids to Zombies by Julie Winterbottom

Tucked among ghost stories, witches, vampires, and haunted houses are lots of short chapters about creepy crawly critters: slithery snakes, killer bees, Komodo dragons, rats, sharks, stonefish, and vampire bats. It’s a complete A-to-Z guide for everything spooky, beginning with Arachnids. What makes spiders so creepy? Maybe it’s their eyes, or the fact that they make sticky webs that cling to your arms. Not only does the author introduce a few arachnids, but she even provides instructions for a Halloween prank. There’s a “fright meter” at the beginning of each chapter (to let you know just how scary the stuff on the pages will be), lots of hands-on activities, and a chapter on how to be an “evil scientist.”


Scary Science: 24 Creepy Experiments: 24 Creepy Experiments by Shar Levine & Leslie Johnstone

If you want to make a shrunken head, some festering ooze, or alien barf, this book is for you! Each experiment lists materials you’ll need, what to do, and explains the science behind what happens. There are so many ways to make slimy, gooey polymers! As with any lab work, young scientists need to wear eye protectors, maybe a lab coat, and definitely pay attention to the warnings to not eat the experiments!

Gross Science Experiments: 60 Smelly, Scary, Silly Tests to Disgust Your Friends and Family by Emma Vanstone

The name says it all. With a conversational, and at times conspiratorial, voice, this book weaves history, science, jokes, and the scientific process throughout these easy and gross experiments. While some are even edible, others are guaranteed to induce cringes. It’s a great book for exploring scary, creepy science in a classroom or at home.

Oh, ick! : 114 science experiments guaranteed to gross you out! by Joy Masoff

From bacteria hotels to zits, this book is filled with ick-tivities, ick-speriments, and ick-splorations. They may not be scary, but they are guaranteed to be gross. Explore earwax and old eggs, garbage and farts, eyeballs, bad breath, and odious odors. Plus a guide on how to think like a Nobel Prize winner (hint: it’s all about experimental design).

This month’s STEM Tuesday book list was prepared by:

Sue Heavenrich, author

Sue Heavenrich, who writes about science for children and their families on topics ranging from space to backyard ecology. Bees, flies, squirrel behavior—things she observes in her neighborhood and around her home—inspire her writing. Her most recent book is The Pie That Molly Made. Visit her at

Maria Marshall, a children’s author, blogger, and poet who is passionate about making nature and reading fun for children. When not writing, critiquing, or reading, she watches birds, travels the world, bakes, and hikes. Visit her at

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