Reading List: terrifying children

Now that it’s getting to be fall, I feel like reading a lot of gothic horror kind of novels (and “beach reads,” to be fair). I’ve come up with a list of ten books that fit that mood: scary, but fun. There are books that feature scary children and there are books that feature things that scare children, and all of them are extremely useful if you don’t want to fall asleep at night.

(If you need more book recs for RIP VI, this is a good list to peruse!)

  1. Jane-Emily by Patricia Clapp (1969). Reviewed here at Birdbrain(ed)!
  2. The Witch Saga by Phyliss Reynolds Naylor (1975-1992?). Starts with Witch’s Sister. I’m pretty sure I only ever read the first three or four of this series, because they scared the pants off of me when I was 10/11.
  3. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz (1981?). The new edition (that I’ve linked to) has illustrations by Brett Helquist. I haven’t seen them so I don’t know how scary they are, but the version I have, with Stephen Gammell’s illustrations, is basically what kept me from sleeping for about a week when I was 12.
  4. Behind the Attic Wall by Sylvia Cassedy (1983). I’m…not actually sure if this is supposed to be horror or not, but moving dolls are scary, right?
  5. The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey (2009). Reviewed here at Birdbrain(ed)!
  6. The House With a Clock in its Walls by John Bellairs (1973). I think maybe some of his Johnny Dixon books are a bit scarier, but this one is my favorite so I’m putting it on the list.
  7. Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy (2007). Okay, so it’s not overtly horror like some of these other books, but this book, and especially the later books, have some pretty scary stuff in them.

What’s your favorite kidlit/YA horror book?

Thanks to Once Upon a Bookshelf for the list-y inspiration!

12 thoughts on “Reading List: terrifying children”

  1. Okay, I just don’t understand what was scary about Behind the Attic Wall! It had a slightly unsettling atmosphere, but the dolls were nice, and everyone was nice. I didn’t think it was scary at all, but everyone else I’ve ever talked to who has read it found it terrifying. Which is, like, you and one other person.

    P.S. I think John Bellairs was what brought me to your blog in the first place! I should really give him a read.

    1. It was NICE, but in that creepy way like in a slasher movie when you’re watching people at a party and you just know one of them is going to die horribly. Like that, sort of. (Also, you didn’t think the end was creepy? With the fire and stuff?)

    1. I’m unfortunately a bit behind– I listen to the audiobooks, and I’m only on book three or four, I think. I need to catch up!

  2. Anything by Lois Duncan used to terrify me! “Down a Dark Hallway” was one I remember in particular – about a girl who gets a scholarship to a private boarding school, but it’s really because she has psychic abilities and the teachers use her to channel dead people to do art and compose music and then pass it off as originals. It was terrifying to me!! Loved it, but terrifying!

  3. I haven’t heard of any of these books except for Scary Stories, which I loved when I was in elementary school. The illustrations were the most terrifying part for me.

    I’d recommend Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier for a great Gothic read. One of my favorites.

    1. I remember the illustrations more than I remember the stories, really. I’m super interested in seeing how the Brett Helquist version stands up. I like BH’s art (especially in the Series of Unfortunate Events books) but it doesn’t scream “scary” to me.

    1. I think Killing Mr Griffin is probably my favorite Lois Duncan book, although to be honest I haven’t read too many. But KMG scared me so much when I was younger! I think it was the psychological thriller part of it– I hadn’t read a lot of those in middle school and it really shocked me.

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