Posts Tagged #spookymg

10 Reasons I Love Middle Grade Spooky Books

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.

Bookcover of middle-grade novel Don't Want To Be Your Monster by Deke MoultonMG 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.

Bookcover of middle-grade novel The Nighthouse Keeper by Lora SenfMG 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.

Bookcover of middle-grade novel Mari and the Curse of El Cocodrilo by Adrianna CuevasMG 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.

Bookcover of the middle-grade novel The Afterlife of the Party by Darcy MarksMG 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?

WNDMG Wednesday — Interview with Debut Author Jude Atwood + a List of Great Spooky Fantasies

We Need Diverse MG Logo hands holding reading globe with stars and spirals floating around

We Need Diverse MG Logo hands holding reading globe with stars and spirals floating around

Illustration by: Aixa Perez-Prado


“When Clara woke up Saturday morning, the dolls were staring at her with their cold, lifeless eyes.” —First line Maybe There are Witches.

I’m a sucker for a great opening line. When I read this one, I knew I had to read Maybe There are Witches. The imagery has prepared me to read a great spooky fantasy. Getting to know this debut author was even more of a treat.


First, a little about the book:

A middle school girl moves to a small town and discovers that her great-great-great grandmother was executed there for witchcraft in the 1800s. After she finds a message addressed to her in a century-old book, she realizes that she and her two new friends must stop a deadly catastrophe predicted by a 19th-century witch. But as their adventure takes them through historic cemeteries, rural libraries, and high-octane academic bowl tournaments, something sinister is lurking, watching, and waiting…


This is your first book and you’ve created a fast-paced, high stakes story, with witches. That’s amazing. What books influenced you as an author?

I’ve always liked middle-grade books that have a bit of a puzzle to them, where the story unfurls a little at a time.

One of my favorites growing up was Ellen Raskin’s The Westing Game, about a diverse group of characters in an apartment building who work in teams to win a rich man’s fortune.

I also loved the spooky Gothic mysteries that John Bellairs wrote, like The House with a Clock in Its Walls.

The House With a Clock In Its Walls (Lewis Barnavelt Book 1) by [John Bellairs, Edward Gorey]

My mom was an English teacher, and one year for Christmas she gave me a copy of Louis Sachar’s Holes. I was a grown-up—I had just finished grad school, in fact—but she thought I’d like it. She was right; I loved it!

Like those authors–and many more–I try to write books that have a whimsical sense of narrative complexity, with pieces that you can uncover and wrap your head around little by little.

Lessons Learned as an Author

That helps me understand what brought you to write this particular book. Can you tell me what you learned in the process?

I’d like to say that I learned how to write a book quickly and easily, but I am working on my second novel now, and I regret to inform you that it’s like a whole new process. Figuring out who the characters are and what their journey will be is a lot like meeting new people and exploring a new place, all from scratch.

However, I did learn that a huge, huge task—like writing a novel—is achievable if you just keep at it. There was a time when I was about 1/3 finished with Maybe There Are Witches and it felt like I might never finish. I’d write when I found the time, for a few hours a day, but what I’d finished seemed so small compared to what I had left to do. And then I’d put in another day of writing, and another, and eventually, I had a book. (And then of course I had to rework it into a second draft, and then a third—but you get the picture!)

Clara’s Journey

In your story, Clara is thirteen years old, and she’s moved more than once in the past few years. At the beginning of the book, she and her mother move from California to a very small village in Illinois, into a house they inherited from her grandmother. What was important about having Clara go to places she’d never been and work with people she didn’t know?

I think that as soon as we’re aware of other human beings, when we’re very, very young, we begin this journey of figuring out how to get to know other people. In some ways, this is how we get to know ourselves.

In my own life, I know that sometimes people I found off-putting or rude at first became some of my best friends, and I also have some very close friends now who have told me their first impression of me was that I was cold or detached. I wanted Clara to be going through this process, learning to understand some new people, while she’s also uncovering her own family history.


You’ve told us you like books with puzzles. The kids in your book go on a quest that involves some puzzling and deciphering. I bet you really like puzzles.


I do! I like all sorts of puzzles, especially word games. And I think a lot of reading and writing involves the elements of puzzles—of figuring out what something means, or figuring out which word fits in a particular place. Rhymes, puns, jokes, even telling someone about your day and trying to get the right tone—it all involves figuring out the right words that fit in the right place.

The past is a puzzle, too. Any time you want to understand something you weren’t present for, you’ve got to, basically, look for clues and evaluate the evidence. You can talk to people who were there, or read about history, or visit places where something happened. It’s all about finding the pieces to understand a mystery, when you think about it.

Dogs or Cats?

Finally, one question for fun—dogs or cats?

I should preface this by saying that I respect all animals. When I was growing up on the farm in Illinois, we had lots of pets. We had cats and dogs, tropical fish, a parakeet, a turtle, a lizard, and even a pet cow named Taffy.

That said, today my heart belongs to my dog Koko, a mixed-breed black-and-white rescue dog who weighs about twenty pounds. She is very smart, and very sleepy.

Learn more about Jude and his projects at:

Twitter: @JudeAtwood
Instagram: @JudeAtwoodSketches

Interested in reading more Spooky Fantasies, check out:

Greenglass House by Kate Milford

“An abundantly diverting mystery seasoned with mild fantasy and just a little steampunk.” – Kirkus

Thomas Creeper & the Gloomsbury Secret by J.R. Potter

“A delightfully dark story, hilariously and matter-of-factly morbid, that evokes a modern setting with a decidedly old-fashioned feel.” -Booklist

Freddie vs. the Family Curse by Tracy Badua

“A spirited fantasy enriched with Filipino culture and history.” – Kirkus

The Girl and the Ghost by Hanna Alkaf

“A Malaysian folk tale comes to life in this emotionally layered, chilling middle grade debut.” – HarperCollins

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

oraline by Neil Gaiman“A magnificently creepy fantasy pits a bright, bored little girl against a soul-eating horror that inhabits the reality right next door.” – Kirkus

If you’d like to learn more about writing spooky middle grade stories, check out this post.


I’m so thrilled to post a review of Fleur Bradley’s newest middle grade book, DAYBREAK ON RAVEN ISLAND! Plus, you could win a hardcover copy of this spooky, adventurous story. Just enter the contest at the end of this post. U.S. residents only please. Contest ends September 5th. 

About Daybreak on Raven Island by Fleur Bradley:

From the critically acclaimed author of Midnight at the Barclay Hotel comes a thrilling new middle grade mystery novel inspired by Alcatraz Prison.

Tori, Marvin, and Noah would rather be anywhere else than on the seventh-grade class field trip to Raven Island prison. Tori would rather be on the soccer field, but her bad grades have benched her until further notice; Marvin would rather be at the first day of a film festival with his best friend, Kevin; and Noah isn’t looking forward to having to make small talk with his classmates at this new school.

But when the three of them stumble upon a dead body in the woods, miss the last ferry back home, and then have to spend the night on Raven Island, they find that they need each other now more than ever. They must work together to uncover a killer, outrun a motley ghost-hunting crew, and expose the age-old secrets of the island all before daybreak.

My review:

Daybreak on Raven Island sucks you in from the very first chapter infused with mystery, intrigue, and foreboding. This dark tale begins with three unlikely friends thrown together on a fieldtrip to Raven Island—home of tragedy, misery, and an abandoned prison with gloomy tales to tell.

Tori, Marvin, and Noah are soon trapped in a sinister puzzle they must unravel before the next day using all their knowledge, wits, and uncovered resources. This field trip quickly becomes more than just a day off from school when we discover Tori, Marvin, and Noah each have a secret connection to this haunted island. The suspense intensifies as these kids begin to experience unexplained phenomenon that shakes up their sense of self and what they thought they knew—and leads to darker dangers they could never have anticipated.

If you love ominous, atmospheric stories, then you’ll love Daybreak on Raven Island. The suspense quickly grows with this diverse set of characters who all carry woeful baggage. They work well in contrast to each other to unravel the secrets of Raven Island—and soon discover not all is as it seems.

7 things to love about Daybreak on Raven Island:

  1. A haunted island with an abandoned prison, lighthouse, mansion, and spooky forest (my fave combo!).
  2. Ravens who watch over the island … and follow you (think Hitchcock’s The Birds but in a good way!).
  3. History comes alive—literally before your eyes.
  4. Gobs of spooky foreshadowing to give you creepy chills.
  5. Ghosts galore (of course!).
  6. A dark and tragic history to be uncovered.
  7. New friendships forged under tough circumstances.

Fleur does a wonderful job of creating not only a unique set of characters but a unique setting that comes alive. The landscape and wildlife are eerie characters themselves that at times hinder and aid our three young investigators.

With each scene the situation worsens, leaving us to wonder if Tori, Marvin, and Noah will indeed survive their night on Raven Island to see daybreak. Throw in a ticking clock, ghostly help, tragic mystery to solve, and a terrifying world to navigate in the dark and you’ve got a chilling mix for a compelling story.

I’m a big lover of touring historical prisons, imagining them in their heyday and the people who lived there—and died there. I checked off a bucket list item to tour Alcatraz several years back, and would have given anything to stay overnight on that island with an abandoned prison! This book happily fulfilled that yearning 😊. Be sure to check out Fleur’s new, Alcatraz-inspired story. It’s scary, has a murder mystery, and tons of real history folklore as its inspiration. And don’t forget the very Hitchcock-y ravens…

About Fleur:

Fleur Bradley is the author of the (scary) middle-grade mystery Daybreak on Raven Island, and award-winning mystery Midnight at the Barclay Hotel (Viking/Penguin Random House). Her story The Perfect Alibi appeared in Mystery Writers of America’s middle-grade anthology Super Puzzletastic Mysteries, edited by Chris Grabenstein (HarperCollins). Fleur regularly does school and Skype visits, as well as librarian and educator conference talks on reaching reluctant readers. Originally from the Netherlands, she now lives in Colorado Springs with her husband and two daughters, and entirely too many rescue animals.

Connect with Fleur:

Website: Fleur Bradley (





Enter to win a copy of Daybreak on Raven Island below or purchase a copy here!

a Rafflecopter giveaway