A Tuesday Ten:A Chill in the Bones

So last week I covered ghostly encounters, but I kept it fairly tame.  This week I’m opening it up to creepy stories, spooky stuff that leaves readers insisting that the lights stay on and the shades are drawn.


The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire LeGrand, illustrated by Sarah Watts (Simon and Schuster, 2012)

Victoria is a perfect child living the perfect, smudge free, nonsense free life.  Everything is perfectly ordered and planned.  Until her friend–and personal improvement project–Lawrence goes missing.   Worse yet, no one else seems to notice he’s vanished from the world.  Victoria suspects it has something to do with the mysterious Cavendish Home, but getting in to investigate may be the easy part.  Classical horror story, perfect middle grade tone.  This one’s a marvelous bet for the strong reader who likes a longer spooky tale.


Coraline by Neil Gaiman (HarperCollins, 2002)

Had to get Neil on this list, didn’t I?  Mr. Gaiman may be more well known for his spooky and macabre stories for adults but  he’s penned a few tales for children as well.  Coraline is perhaps his most popular work, having been transformed into a movie and also into a graphic novel format.  Young Coraline travels through a mysterious door into another world where things are much like her own, except that  they are so much better–at first.  But Coraline’s perfect world has a darkly sinister side.  Can she discover the truth before it’s too late?


Among the Dolls by William Sleator (Starscape, c1975)

Short, shivery doll story.  Dolls seem to provoke a lot of creepiness, but no doll story ever quite chilled me the way this one did. Vicky’s channels her troubled family life into the dolls in the old dollhouse she was given as a birthday gift.  Until one day, she’s somehow sucked into the dollhouse and stranded among the very dolls she used to play with.  Those dolls are alive, and they intend to keep Vicky as their plaything . . .


The House With a Clock in Its Walls by John Bellairs (Puffin, c1973)

An old mansion owned by an evil wizard houses a clock that is counting down the minutes until Doomsday.  Can Lewis find the clock and stop it in time?  This is one of those tales that has ended up on countless reading lists for kids over the years–and a perfect Halloween reading experience!


Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark retold by Alvin Schwartz, illustrated by Stephen Gammell (Scholastic, 1981)

The short story form seems tailor made for spooky stories, and this particular anthology has been a staple for children’s libraries since its publication.  Quickly read stories, accompanied by spine-tingling art of Stephen Gammell make this an ideal offering for read-alouds, young readers and impatient readers who like a quick scare.    This first anthology was followed by two more in the series: More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (1984), and Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones (1991).


Seven Strange and Ghostly Tales by Brian Jacques (Puffin, c1991)

Most folks know this author for his epic Redwall series, featuring swashbuckling forest creatures and magical quests.  But he’s got a slim book of spooky stories that I first picked up as a girl.  I’ve got to admit that the first story in this collection is one that freaked me out enough to give me nightmares for a while.


The Shadow Cage by Philippa Pearce, illustrated by Ted Lewin (Crowell, c1977)

Another collection of short stories.  I couldn’t resist adding this, because when I think spooky, this cover always comes to mind –where the kid is cowering in the shadows of the monkey bars.  The short story that matches this illustration has always made me a little leery of walking through playgrounds at night.


Inside My Feet: The Story of a Giant by Richard Kennedy, illustrated by Ronald Himler (Harper & Row, 1979)

My mother read this story aloud to us when we were in grade school.  I was always deliciously drawn into the creepy tale of enchanted boots that carry off a boy’s father and mother and leave him to figure out a way of rescuing them both from a hungry giant.  It’s a good scary story for younger audiences, with a giant as the villain rather than a ghost or other standard monster.


Doll Bones by Holly Black (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2013)

One of my favorite reads this year, I think.  Especially when it comes to creepy.  It may be argued that there’s nothing supernatural in the story, but that depends upon interpretation.  And regardless of that fact, there’s still a creepy doll made out of the bones of a dead girl that may (or may not) house a ghost.  Wonderfully atmospheric, this story is less a straight thriller and more a coming of age on the spooky side of things.


Deep and Dark and Dangerous by Mary Downing Hahn (Clarion, 2007)

I’d be very, very remiss if I did not bring up the work of Mary Downing Hahn.  When it comes to short and shivery, she is a master at the art of tight middle grade stories featuring creepy paranormal elements that send shivers down your spine.  In this story, a pair of cousin’s meet a little girl who’s always causing trouble.  Sissy tells them stories  of a child who drowned under mysterious circumstances.  But are they really just stories . . . or is there something more?


Down a Dark Hall by Lois Duncan (Laurel Leaf, c1974)

This may be a bit of a YA crossover, but I read most of Duncan’s stuff while in my tween years.  Long before many writers were busy penning spooky supernatural tales, Ms. Duncan was putting them on the shelves.  This particular story of a girl going to a mysterious boarding school with only 4 students.  As Kit seeks to uncover the truth surrounding the school and their work, her dreams are becoming the stuff of nightmares . . . or perhaps they’re something more!  This is just one of many of Lois Duncan‘s short paranormal thrillers.

These are just a few of the many spine tinglers you’ll find on the shelves for kids–what are some of your favorites?  Comments Welcome!


About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on October 30, 2013, in General Posts, Lists and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I loved Coraline! I read the entire book in one long 3.5 hour sitting. Neil Gaiman is a wonderful mix of dreamlike fantasy and darkness.

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