If you or your young reader are looking for some chilling stories to take the heat off summer, here are some great recent books with just the right level of scary for kids ages 8-12.
Watch Hollow, by Gregory Funaro
When an elderly Englishman offers their father a fortune to repair a giant clock that once powered his isolated Rhode Island mansion, Blackford House, Lucy and Oliver think things are looking up. But when they arrive at Blackford House they’re dismayed to find it almost a ruin. Starting the clock again might bring the house back, but the challenges are more than just mechanical. Lucy discovers that some of the animals once set in the clock to mark the hours come to life at night, hiding in terror from an evil monster, the Garr. The Garr wants control of the clock and its magic and soon the family is under attack. Lucy must not only rescue the remaining clock animals but her brother as well as the Garr moves closer to taking over the house. The Garr is a terrifying creature of nightmare, but the love holding Lucy’s family together, and the magical charm of the clock animals, keeps the thrilling horror to a safe level.
Music Boxes, by Tonja Drecker
Lindsay is proud of her little sister’s musical talent but resentful when it means that her own hopes of being a ballet dancer are put on a back burner. Then she’s invited to be part of a magical ballet school where Madame Destinee has gathered super-talented young dancers from around the world. Lindsay realizes it’s a strange place, what with the secret midnight performances and the impossible collection of kids, but she isn’t scared at first. Then she realizes what Madame really wants from her students…and the joy she took in dancing better than she ever had before turns to terror. Beautiful music boxes aren’t the only thing Madame collects…
Spirit Hunters, by Ellen Oh
Harper’s parents are thrilled with the big old house they’ve bought, but for Harper it’s a nightmare. She can communicate with ghosts, and the house is haunted. The spirit of a little boy who died in the house takes possession of her little brother, and her gifts are tested to the utmost when she learns the ghost boy is just the cat’s-paw of a more powerful malevolent spirit. The evil possession is creepy, and horror builds from there to a final confrontation is full of bloody terror (though no one dies). Harper’s a great, relatable character, with family and friendship tensions on the side, making this a great pick for any 10-to-12-year-old who wants a good scare! Harper’s adventures with supernatural horror continue in The Island of Monsters, when her family vacation becomes a desperate struggle against demons.
The Owls have Come To Take Us Away, by Ronald L. Smith
This one is perfect for those who like supernatural horror intruding into the real world, like in The X-files. Twelve-year-old Simon is wiling away the summer on the Air Force base where he lives playing video games, writing a fantasy novel, and researching aliens. Then, on a camping trip with his parents, something happens to him in the forest. Now he knows the aliens are real, and he’s sure that there’s an alien implant in his stomach. Simon is on his own with the horror of it; his parents can’t believe him when he tells them about the owl-like beings. Then he finds other adults in the Air Force who do believe…but what can anyone do about it? The terror here comes from Simon’s powerlessness, and the tension of whether or not the aliens are real, which the reader doesn’t out till the very end.
Nightbooks, by J.A. White
Ever since watching Night of the Living Dead at a young age, Alex has been fascinated by horror. This has not played out well at school, so he decides to burn his notebooks of scary stories and become “normal.” But his trip down to the furnace of his building is sidetracked when he’s lured into an apartment on the fourth floor where he is trapped by the evil witch Natacha. Alex must keep Natacha happy with scary stories every night, and though he likes his stories being appreciated, he doesn’t give up trying to find a way home. With help from fellow prisoner Yasmin and the witch’s magical cat, Alex finds his way to the evil heart of the witch’s magic and breaks her power. It’s Hansel and Gretel meets 1001 Arabian Nights, with the real-world horror of child abduction. The fairytale magic, though, gives Alex’s adventures the feel of a fantasy quest, softening the threat.
What scary stories is your young reader going to love?