13 Middle Grade Thrills and Chills for Tween Horror Buffs | Summer Reading 2020

These scary stories should tide young horror fans over until spooky season.

 

 

This selection of hair-raising middle grade titles runs the gamut from creepy, atmospheric anthologies to haunting fiction rooted in the true horrors of history. Varying in scare factor, these 13 titles will keep all horror fans busy until spooky season arrives.

Scare Me by K.R. Alexander. Scholastic. Jul. 2020. ISBN 9781338338812.

Each year, the town of Happy Hills holds a haunted house contest at a local museum, where teams of kids come up with new ways to scare people. When one team revives a long-dead Ghost Bride and the house where she resides,  the contestants face the reality that the scares they planned are coming to life.

Out To Get You: 13 Tales of Weirdness and Woe by Josh Allen. Holiday House. ISBN 9780823443666; ISBN 9780823443949.

Move over “Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark,” you’ve got a new neighbor. This chilling anthology features threatening shadows, seemingly sweet stray kittens (who are only sweet for so long), and an ever-changing doodle that becomes one girl's obsession. In the same vein as Stephen Gammell’s illustrations for Alvin Schwartz’s “Scary Stories,” black-and-white drawings enhance the authenticity of the dark, shady, and grotesque.

Dead Voices by Katherine Arden. Putnam. ISBN 9780525515050.

A free ski vacation turns into a good news/bad news scenario for middle schoolers Coco, Brian, and Ollie (Olivia) and brings with it an unwelcome reunion with an old enemy in this sequel to Small Spaces. The good news? Ollie’s dad won a week at a newly renovated ski lodge. The bad news? The lodge, a former orphanage, is haunted to the rafters.

Camp Murderface by Josh Berk & Saundra Mitchell. HarperCollins. ISBN 9780062871633.

Tez and Corryn couldn't be more different in their feelings about Camp Sweetwater: Tez wants to be at camp more than anything after a lifetime of worried parents concerned about his heart condition, Corryn wants to be anywhere but. Everything about their typical summer woes changes when the campfire ghost stories become more than tall tales.

The Forgotten Girl by India Hill Brown. Scholastic. ISBN 9781338317244.

Iris is a young African American girl who loves the snow and adventure. She had been warned by her parents not to play in the woods behind her house. When she and her friend Daniel disobey, they make contact with the Avery Moore, and learn the painful truth of segregated graveyards through the young girl's plea for remembrance. This is a solid title for public and school libraries in search of horror with roots in Black history.

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Don’t Let the Doll In by Mike Ford. Scholastic. (Frightville: Bk. 1). ISBN 9781338360097.

If you visited a store called Frightville, purchased a doll, and received the ominous warning to recite a special rhyme before bed every night, wouldn’t you follow that advice? When Mara doesn't, chaos ensues. A very satisfying twist at the end will hook readers for the rest of the series.

Guest: A Changeling Tale by Mary Downing Hahn. Clarion. ISBN 9780358067313.

This tale by Hahn, notable for her “just right” scary stories for the upper elementary school crowd, is somewhat different than her usual offerings, veering more toward the fantastical side of horror. It’s Mollie’s fault when the Kinde Folke (a group of spiteful fairies who are neither delicate nor kind) kidnap her brother and leave Guest in his place—a sickly fairy halfling who does nothing but bite, pinch, eat…and tear her family apart.

Ghost: Thirteen Haunting Tales to Tell by Blaise Hemingway & Jesse Reffsin. illus. by Chris Sasaki & Jeff Turley. Chronicle. ISBN 9781452171289.

In this atmospheric collection of chills, 13 scary stories with roots in many childhood experiences are brought to life. The tales vary in scariness, but each one draws from childhood fears and urban legends that continue to frighten each new generation.

Elizabeth Webster and the Court of Uncommon Pleas by William Lashner. Disney-Hyperion. ISBN 9781368041287.

Henry Harrison, star swimmer at Elizabeth Webster’s school, has asked her to tutor him. In reality, what he really needs is help with a ghost who has been haunting his house. Why Elizabeth? Because the ghost asked for her.

Ghost Hunter’s Daughter by Dan Poblocki. Scholastic. Jul. 2020. ISBN 9780545830041.

Lucas and Claire are both new transplants to their school with supernatural secrets; Claire's dad is a ghost hunter on television, and Lucas’s grandmother has powers to speak to the dead that Lucas might have inherited. When he’s visited by Claire’s deceased mother, they team up to find Claire’s missing dad who disappeared during a ghost-hunting trip. Chilling ghost stories are Poblocki’s topic of choice and for good reason: His skilled organization of plot points and creepy characters in haunted settings captivates even the youngest readers.

The Haunting of Hounds Hollow by Jeffrey Salane. Scholastic. ISBN 9781338105490.

Lucas Trainer isn't happy about his family leaving the city he loves to move to an inherited house in the country. Both their new town and their new home, Sweetwater Mansion, prove to be rife with odd happenings. With new friends, Bess and Lens, Lucas finds courage he didn't know he had and sets out to solve the mystery. Realizing that his ancestor, Silas, is the key, Lucas delves into family history and uncovers some terrifying truths that affect his family and the greater community.

Just South of Home by Karen Strong. S. & S. ISBN 9781534419384.

Sarah firmly believes in science, but when her cousin Janie's pilfering lands them in the middle of their town's greatest mystery and shame—restless ghosts who are victims of historic hate crimes haunting her Georgia town—she may start to believe in the otherworldly. This intricate mix of Southern mystery, history, and ghost story creeps but doesn't scare; Strong's prose presents a world so real readers will feel the warm Georgia breeze, or the haints' chilling breath down their neck.

Tales from the Fringes of Fear by Jeff Szpirglas. illus. by Steven P Hughes. Orca. ISBN 9781459824584.

In this companion book to Szpirglas’s Tales from Beyond the Brain, 13 spine-tingling stories feature students who find that their classes and teachers are far from boring—they are possibly deadly!  Each creepy story ends like a door being slammed shut; elementary and middle school readers will be eager to open the door to the next one.

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