Ah, it’s a wonderful time of year — the leaves on the trees are changing colors, pumpkins decorate front porches, the scent of apple cider is in the air … and the mood is just right to curl up with a spooky read! Whether you’re looking for an amusing fright, spine-tingling terror, or some facts about fear, these recommendations will have you covered!
- Have you ever noticed how, well, CREEPY some fairy tales are? Hansel & Gretel is the perfect read for the season, as it combines scary witches, children lost in a dark woods, and lots of CANDY all in one story. For a new twist on an old favorite, check out Bethan Woollvin’s version, which tells the story from the witch’s perspective. She really is a GOOD witch … but Hansel and Gretel are such NAUGHTY children! Although told in a picture-book with Halloween-colored black, white, and orange illustrations, you can still expect deliciously dark ending!
- “It was a dark and stormy night …” Few words will put you more in the mood for a cozy, creepy read, and these are the first words of the “oldie but goodie” classic, “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeline L’Engle. If you haven’t read it, be prepared to find witches, time travel, a giant brain, a man with glowing red eyes, and monsters — but it’s not always clear at first glance which ones you should be afraid of. If you’ve already read it, check out The Library of America’s new edition, which comes in two volumes. The first includes all four books in the “Wrinkle in Time” quartet, and the second includes the four spin-off novels in the Polly O’Keefe quartet. You may start reading on a dark and stormy night, but don’t be surprised if these eight books still have you gripped in their spell when spring rolls around!
- If you’re looking for something that’s more fun than scary, pick up the most recent book in the previously recommended Bea Garcia series, “Tales of a Scaredy Dog” by Deborah Zemke. In it, Bea tells the story (in doodles) of her relationship with her dog, Sophie. When Bea has to visit her dreadful neighbor, Bert, for a school assignment, she brings Sophie along to protect her. But Bert has a pet of his own — Big Kitty, who scares Sophie so bad that she runs away! Now Bea has to face her biggest fear — not knowing if she’ll find her dog again.
- Ollie is out on a field trip with her school when things start to go horribly wrong. First, she notices similarities between the farm they are visiting and a ghost story she recently read, and then her watch begins a countdown with the word RUN spelled out on its face. As she and two friends head into the nearby woods, the bus driver warns them to “keep to small spaces” to survive what is to come. Ollie has heard this warning before, from the woman who almost threw away the ghost story with so many similarities to what is unfolding now. Read “Small Spaces” by Katherine Arden if you’re ready for a real spine tingler!
- When you have a title like Haunt Huntress, you know some spooky times lay ahead. The problem is, 12-year-old Evangeline isn’t sure her “huntress” powers will emerge on her thirteenth birthday so she can follow in her mother and grandmother’s footsteps of hunting monsters in the Louisiana bayou. But when Gran is called to New Orleans on a special case, Evangeline starts noticing signs that death is near — can she save her grandmother AND the city of New Orleans even if she isn’t a real Haunt Huntress? Read “Evangeline of the Bayou” by Jan Eldredge to find out.
- In “Where the Woods End” by Charlotte Salter, 12-year-old Kestrel lives in a forest filled with beasts at every turn — and the worst of them all are the grabbers, who build their bodies from parts of the forest until they resemble their victim’s greatest fear. Kestrel’s mother asks her to hunt down the grabbers to protect the village — but can she outrun her own grabber to do it?
- Do you remember the days of being afraid of monsters in your closest? (Don’t worry if you still wonder about that sometimes — I won’t judge!) You can return to that sense of fear and wonder with “The Darkness in Lee’s Closet and the Others Waiting There” by Roy Schwartz. When her father dies, Lee finds comfort in the complete darkness of her closet, where she also meets four dead companions. Can they guide her safely through the afterlife in search o her father — a place where no live girl should go?
- Anna loves scary stories. But when she and her brother Max join their father on a business trip and discover a mysterious knife, they are soon drawn into a world of monsters and magic in “The Witching Hours: The Vampire Knife” by Jack Henseleit. Could it be that there is truth in the scary stories their professor father has been telling them?
In “Whichwood,” Laylee Layla Fenjoon lives in a frozen land where she has inherited her mother’s job of washing the bodies of the dead and preparing their souls for the afterlife. Trapped in loneliness, she tries to ignore that her hands are stiffening and that her hair is turning silver … until familiar strangers appear to turn her world upside down. A stand-alone companion to the previously recommended “Furthermore,” author Tahereh Mafi says she drew on stories from her Persian heritage to create the imaginary world in her books.
- Ghosts, werewolves, zombies, witches … you’re probably used to meeting ALL these creatures in stories, movies, costumes, and porch decorations at this time of year. But how much do you actually KNOW about the stories behind the things that scare us most? Whether spiders or vampires give you those tingles of fear, you’ll find out more about them in “Frightlopedia” by Julie Winterbottom, an A-to-Z encyclopedia with facts on the things that scare us most!
What about you? Have you read any of the books above? What will YOU be reading to get into the Halloween spirit this year? Let me know in the comments below!
Lacey Louwagie is an adult writer and editor who got her first editing job with New Moon Girls in 2002. She is currently an editor for a legal news organization, which means she reads a lot of lawsuits! She has also been a teen services librarian and coordinates book-related goodies for New Moon Girls. She is the author of “Rumpled,” a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin for ages 14 and up, and the co-editor of “Hungering & Thirsting for Justice: True Stories from Young Adult Catholics.”