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Dare to explore spooky stories with your students! From ghostly tales to spooky folktales, browse this selection of delightful and scary books for children. Explore our pick of the best scary picture books, perfect for unleashing their imaginations!

Spooky Stories for Kids: 28 Delightful and Scary Books for Children

Why Read Spooky & Scary Picture Books with Children?

Reading spooky and scary books for children is a great way to help them cultivate a sense of magic and imagination and build confidence and comfort with fear. 

By exposing children to the spooky and scary aspects of literature, we can help them build self-confidence and prepare them to face the challenges and uncertainties in life. 

Children can learn to confront and work through the unknown, make sense of their emotions, and see the power of their storytelling capabilities. It also helps them develop a healthy fear of the unknown. 

While children may like scary stories, they also want to feel safe. Spooky children’s books allow them to feel different emotions in an environment they know is safe. Neil Gaiman explains further.

“Fear is a wonderful thing, in small doses. You ride the ghost train into the darkness, knowing that eventually, the doors will open, and you will step out into the daylight once again. It’s always reassuring to know that you’re still here, still safe. That nothing strange has happened, not really.”

NEIL GAIMAN

Spooky stories for children are not just for Halloween.

Many children love listening to a spooky book where the anticipation and excitement build, and they don’t know what will happen next. As a teacher-librarian, I kept a list of spooky children’s books on hand, as students often asked me for the scariest book in the library all year round.

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Scary Books for Children

Encourage questions and discussions about the book. Ask them if they felt scared or surprised by the story – this is a great way to gauge their understanding of the material. 

Just remember to be mindful of your audience when selecting stories. Scary stories aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, and you know your students the best. Depending on your tone and speed of reading, you can make a book less scary.

Black Dog by Levi Pinfold

This is the first of two scary books for children by Levi Pinfold. A family is afraid of a large black dog outside their home. As they each spy a dog through their window, it grows in size and menace. It is the smallest member of the family who discovers the dog is not what the rest of the family imagined.

A book to promote a growth mindset, open-mindedness, risk-taking and courage.

Black Dog by Levi Pinfold

The Black Rabbit by Philippa Leather

A fearful rabbit doesn’t understand why a big, scary rabbit is always chasing him. Only when the rabbit runs into a dark wood does the sinister rabbit disappear, only to spot some glowing eyes concealed in the trees. Will Rabbit overcome his fears?

The Black Rabbit by Philippa Leather

The Book That Eats People by John Perry

The author urgently warns the reader to stay away from this book. It disguises itself behind different dust jackets, lurks in libraries, and has a taste for careless children.

The Book That Eats People by John Perry

Chalk by Bill Thomson

Three children use their imagination to create real-life objects after finding magic chalk. This wordless picture book promotes creativity, friendship, responsible decision-making, creative thinking, problem-solving and retelling.

Chalk by Bill Thomson​

Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds

Jasper Rabbit loves carrots, especially free ones; this is until the carrots begin stalking him and watching his every move. The tension builds as Jasper’s imagination goes into overdrive. He devises a plan to stop the carrots, but will it be the success he hopes for?

Creepy Carrots reinforces themes of overcoming fears and honesty.

Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds

The Dark by Lemony Snicket

The dark frightens Lazlo. The dark beckons him to come to the basement when his nightlight goes out. Lazlo tentatively goes into the basement, where he thinks dark lives, and the dark leads Lazlo to a drawer full of light bulbs.

Promotes confidence, risk-taking, perseverance and overcoming fears.

The Dark by Lemony Snicket

The Dreadful Fluff by Aaron Blabey

This is the first of two scary books for children by Aaron Blabey. Serenity Strainer fights her fears to save her family from the dreadful (belly button) fluff, along with courage and a vacuum cleaner.

Read to discuss confidence, courage, and overcoming fears.

The Dreadful Fluff by Aaron Blabey

The Ghost of Miss Annabel Spoon by Aaron Blabey

This is the second of two scary books for children by Aaron Blabey. Annabelle Spoon haunts the town of Twee, and the townspeople are fed up. They want her gone. Herbert Kettle takes the time to listen and realises all Annabel Spoon wants is a friend.

Read The Ghost of Miss Annabel Spoon to start discussions on compassion, acceptance, loneliness and a sense of belonging.

The Ghost of Miss Annabel Spoon by Aaron Blabey

The Grotlyn by Benji Davies

Items are being stolen in Rubi’s town. Everyone has heard the tales of the Grotlyn and wonders if it is to blame for the missing items. Rubi’s curiosity leads her to discover why they were stolen and their greater purpose. Reinforces themes of creativity, fears and curiosity.

The Grotlyn by Benji Davies

I Go Quiet by David Ouimet

In a dystopian-looking place, a shy girl struggles in the world of noise. She sees herself as insignificant and finds solace in the pages of books. ‘When I read, I know there is a world beneath my branches.’ In her imagination, her words are powerful, and she realises that when she finds the courage, her words will have meaning in the real world.

I Go Quiet by David Ouimet

Heckedy Peg by Audrey Wood

A loving mother saves her seven children (names after the days of the week) from an evil witch. The witch, Heckedy Peg, turns the children into food and takes them to her home, a cave. The mother tricks the witch into giving her the children back.

Promotes discussions on caring, disobedience, creative thinking, and prediction.

Heckedy Peg by Audrey Wood

Into the Forest by Anthony Browne

This is the first of two scary books for children by Anthony Browne. A boy visits his grandma by travelling through the forest, against his mum’s instructions. He meets fairy tale characters in strange circumstances. Afraid, he runs to his grandma’s house, where he finds a surprise.

Into the Forest by Anthony Browne​

Lenny & Lucy by Philip C. Stead

Peter moves to a new house in a dark, unfriendly wood. He makes imaginary protectors, Lenny and Lucy, from a tall pile of pillows, blankets and string. Feeling safer, Peter meets his next-door neighbour, Millie, and discovers that his new home is not as dangerous as he imagined.

Lenny & Lucy by Philip C. Stead

Life Doesn’t Frighten Me by Maya Angelou

Life Doesn’t Frighten Me by Maya Angelou is a poem about bravery and confronting our fears, and finding the courage within. Told from a child’s perspective. Use to teach how words and art tell a story, fears, confronting challenges and self-management.

Life Doesn't Frighten Me by Maya Angelou

The Little Ghost Who Was a Quilt by Riel Nason

A little ghost is a quilt. It can’t whirl and whirl in the sky because it gets very hot each time it flies. It feels very left out when it can’t keep up with its friends. One Halloween, the lonely little quilt finds its place in the world and makes new friends.

Read The Little Ghost Who Was a Quilt to start discussions on individuality, belonging, self-acceptance and overcoming challenges.

The Little Ghost Who Was a Quilt by Riel Nason

Lon Po Po by Ed Young

A mother leaves her three daughters at home while she visits her mother, Po Po. A wolf visits the sisters, and the younger one lets it in. The two older sisters have to devise a plan to escape and kill the wolf. Compare and contrast this Chinese version of Little Red Riding Hood with other versions.

Lon Po Po by Ed Young

The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg

This is the first of two scary books for children by Chris Van Allsburg. Take in the detail of fourteen black and white drawings by the elusive artist Harris Burdick. He only provides the title and a caption for each illustration, so it is up to the reader to create the story from what they see. Check out the website for more details.

Use this wordless book to teach creative writing, perspectives, inferring and asking questions.

The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg

Non Stop by Tomi Ungerer

Vasco is alone in a desolate landscape, with only his shadow for company. Shadow guides Vasco through his dangerous surroundings and to a new companion, Poco. Having someone to care for gives Vasco the determination to cope with his circumstances, leading to a sense of hope and trust.

Promotes discussions for older readers on friendships, loneliness, resilience, perseverance, hope and endurance.

Non Stop by Tomi Ungerer

Paradise Sands: A Story of Enchantment by Levi Pinfold

This is the second of two scary books for children by Levi Pinfold. While travelling to visit their mother, a girl and her three brothers step into the mysterious Paradise Sands hotel. Inside, the brothers fall under the spell of the Teller. The girl is cautious and makes a deal with the Teller to set her brothers free. It is a deal that comes at a price, but a deal she is willing to follow through.

Read Paradise Sands to promote discussions on decoding illustrations, love, selflessness, determination, responsible decision-making, word choice, character traits, prediction, and inference.

Paradise Sands: A Story of Enchantment by Levi Pinfold

The Pomegranate Witch by Denise Doyen

A group of kids want to eat from the most beautiful pomegranates tree. Unfortunately, the tree is growing in a witch’s garden. As they try to get the fruit, the witch has a few tricks up her sleeve.

The Pomegranate Witch by Denise Doyen - 15 of the Best Halloween Books for Kids of all Ages

The Queen in the Cave by Julia Sardà

Franca has a strange feeling and loses interest in things at home. She sets out with her two sisters to search for the Queen in the Cave she dreamed of. They journey deeper into the forest, which gets darker and magical secrets come to life as they get nearer to Queen’s cave.

Read The Queen in the Cave to promote discussions on courage, interpretation, surrealism and making inferences.

The Queen in the Cave by Julia Sardà

The Ocean Calls: A Haenyeo Mermaid Story by Tina Cho

Two siblings visit a lake with their Moshom (grandfather), who soon falls asleep. Lauren persuades her brother, James, to take the canoe to fish for their supper. The Memekwesewak (Little People) take James, and Lauren sets out to rescue him. Their eerie music entrances them until they hear the drum beat of their Moshom’s drum calling them home.

Read A Song That Called Them Home to promote discussions on summer, folktales, indigenous communities, courage, strength, and resilience.

The Ocean Calls: A Haenyeo Mermaid Story by Tina Cho

There’s a Ghost in This House by Oliver Jeffers

A girl invites the reader to explore her large, old home. As she shows the reader around her house, she wonders if it is haunted. She has never seen a ghost, but she has heard suspicious sounds. She asks questions about what ghost looks like and what they do. By the end of the book, the reader has seen any ghosts, but the girl still hasn’t spotted one.

The Tunnel by Anthony Browne

This is the second of two scary books for children by Anthony Browne. Two siblings discover a tunnel. The brother rushes in, dismissing his sister’s fears. When he doesn’t return, she finds the courage to follow him. 

Promotes themes of facing our fears, cooperation, curiosity, responsibility and being a risk-taker.

The Tunnel by Anthony Browne

The Watertower by Gary Crew

In Preston, Australia, an old rusty watertower casts a shadow over the town. When Spike and Budda climb the tower to go for a swim, strange things start to happen around the town. It is up to the reader to draw their own conclusion about what is happening.

The Watertower by Gary Crew & Steven Woolman

The Widow’s Broom by Chris Van Allsburg

This is the second of two scary books for children by Chris Van Allsburg. A widow, Minna Shaw, finds an extraordinary broom after a witch falls into her garden. The broom helps with household chores. She knows the broom is harmless, but her neighbours are not so trusting. Two neighbourhood boys harass the broom, which teaches them a well-deserved lesson. But these actions provoke the neighbours to make Minna burn the broom. Will this be the end of the story?

The Widow's Broom by Chris Van Allsburg - 15 of the Best Halloween Books for Kids of all Ages

The Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman

When Lucy tells her family there are wolves within the house’s walls, they don’t believe her. Her belief comes true when the wolves come out, and Lucy’s adventure is just beginning.

The Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman

In Conclusion

Spooky and scary picture books teach us that comfort can be found in the unfamiliar and that the unknown can be seen as an adventure. We can all agree that scaring our children is never a good idea, but introducing them to the occasional spooky and scary story can help to foster their personal growth.

These are a great collection of scary stories for children to have on hand all year round. They would also make great Halloween read-alouds, and you can find more traditional Halloween suggestions at Best Halloween Books for Kids.

You can also check out some ideas for book character costumes for teachers and your students for the Halloween season.

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Spooky Stories for Kids: 28 Delightful and Scary Books for Children

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