Time and time again, I have had middle grade readers waltz into my library, casually asking me for a Stephen King novel to sign-out, and regrettably, I have to inform them that we in fact do not carry any Stephen King books in our elementary school library collection. I am faced with great disappointment, dissatisfaction, and I have once been accused of, and I quote, “crushing their horror-loving souls.”
Always wanting to please my readers, what is a librarian to do? I am left with the inevitable task of finding suitable read-alike alternatives. No, they may not have the same level of terror one may find in IT or Pet Cemetery, but what I can promise readers is that these suggestions are a good dose of creepy and can be downright horrifying, if given the proper chance. I have compiled a list below with my top recommendations that will surely get any reader into a horrific mood before October 31st.
Tales from Beyond the Brain by Jeff Szpirglas, Illustrated by Steven P. Hughes
This is a collection of thirteen spooky stories, which according to Goodreads, they “are outrageous as they are terrifying. They are guaranteed to make you laugh like a hyena, shake your head in wonder or tremble with fear.” If you end up loving this book, then you will also enjoy its companion book, Tales from the Fringes of Fear.
Haunted Canada series by Pat Hancock & Joel A. Sutherland
A collection of ghost stories that all take place within Canada. There are several books within the Haunted Canada series, with most written by Pat Hancock and Joel A. Sutherland.
Haunted series by Joel A. Sutherland
Also by Joel A. Sutherland, Haunted is a series of standalone middle grade fiction novels. They are filled with action and terror, but include just enough humour to lighten the mood. These books also take place in Canada!
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
A dark, paranormal horror, The Graveyard Book is about a boy named Nobody “Bod” Owens, who lives in a graveyard and was raised by ghosts. There are many terrors in which Bod must face, both from the living and the dead.
Hello Neighbor series by Carly Anne West
The books in this series are original stories based on the popular horror video game also called Hello Neighbor! This is the first book in the series, and apparently, it includes two colour illustrations that readers must use to help them solve the novel’s mystery!
Hide and Seeker by Daka Hermon
I just started reading this book before bed one night and I already have had to put it away, because I knew it was going to give me nightmares! The book begins with the main character, Justin, going to a welcome home party for his friend. This isn’t any ordinary party though – Justin’s best friend, Zee, went missing a year ago, and even though now he’s back, he’s completely…different. Nobody knows what happened to him during that year he went missing. At this party, everyone joins in to play a classic game of Hide and Seek…and this is where everything goes wrong (and this is also where I stopped reading)!
The Jumbies series by Tracey Baptiste
Corinne isn’t afraid of anything, especially not Jumbies, who are just tricksters parents make up to frighten their children. One night, Corinne chases an agouti into the forbidden forest, and what does she see there? Yellow eyes staring back at her…could they belong to a Jumbie? This horror series is rooted in Caribbean folklore and it is said that readers will be holding their breath from start until finish!
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark trilogy by Alvin Schwartz
These books have been ever so popular over the years. They are spooky stories that are based on American folklore. They are also accompanied by equally as frightening illustrations. They may have a long history of censorship, due to these books being deemed as “traumatizing,” but these stories have been absolute favourites to children and still hold quite the fan-base.
Fun fact: Publishers gave the trilogy a facelift by replacing the original, terrifying illustrations by Stephen Gammell with Brett Helquist’s (best known for his illustrations for A Series of Unfortunate Events), which were much tamer in comparison. Readers were outraged, so much so, publishers decided to go back to using the original illustrations!
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is now a major motion picture, so you can read the stories first and then be spooked all over again while watching the film!
Goosebumps series by R. L. Stine
I feel like everyone knows this series, but how could I possible not include it in this list? In case you are one of the few who have never heard of these books, Goosebumps is classic series of books for middle grade horror lovers. Welcome to Dead House is the first book in the original series. R.L. Stine is still writing middle grade horror and now has out a new graphic novel series called, Just Beyond, which is also worth checking out!
Small Spaces by Katherine Arden
This story begins with eleven-year-old Ollie bumping into a crazed woman who is trying to throw a book in the water. Ollie saves the book from damage by stealing it away. When she opens the book to read it, she learns about “the smiling man” – a ghost who grants wishes, but for a price. Ollie take a school trip to a local farm, but on their way back home, the bus breaks down. The teacher leaves to go get help, but as soon as the bus driver is left with the children alone, he tells them, “best get moving. At nightfall they’ll come for the rest of you.” And that’s when Ollie’s digital wristwatch, the one she thought was broken, starts beeping and going crazy…and then it starts to countdown…and then it reveals a message to her: RUN. The fall farm setting and the eeriness of it all, makes for a perfect creepy read. There is a sequel too called, Dead Voices – equally as creepy!