One of my favorite ways to celebrate Halloween is with a read aloud that helps us get a good spine tingle or step into a spooky atmosphere via our imaginations. Here are 13 middle grade book selections that fit the bill, all perfect for read alouds or independent reading.
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One of the scarier selections on this list, Wait Till Helen comes is about a newly blended family who move into a renovated church complete with an old cemetery. Struggling with the new family dynamic, the youngest child bonds with one of the departed. Are her stories about playing with a ghost real?
Bunnicula isn’t like other bunnies, and the other pets in the household are determined to figure out the sinister mystery surrounding him. Bonus: If your child is hooked by this story of mystery-solving pets, there are seven books in the series, so you’ll have lots of reading material in the queue.
Trina and her father move to an isolated Victorian mansion so he can rehabilitate it. Trina struggles to make the friends at school she so desires, and she begins to suspect that the old house may be haunted. The atmosphere of this book lends it a level of creepiness, but it’s never truly scary.
A perfect specimen of the gothic genre, The Night Gardener offers the tale of two orphaned children trying to earn their keep as servants in a crumbling Victorian mansion. Dangerous supernatural elements emerge, certain to give all readers a chill up their spines.
If your definition of spooky extends to science fiction with a sense of impending doom, this might be the book for you. Created in a lab near a school, ergonyms are supposed to be a planet-saving green solution. The kids who journey into the woods between the school and the lab discover that the ergonyms aren’t the safe solution the lab wants everyone to believe they are.
Coraline discovers a parallel world in which another mother and father want only to make her happy, unlike her real parents who never seem to have time for her. But Other Mother has plans for Coraline that speed this story through a dark and dangerous adventure.
The story of an orphan trying to survive his harsh reality as a child chimney sweep in the Victorian period, this story gives off a whiff of Dickens. Our chimney sweep, young Grubb, finds his circumstances changed when he is swept away to the Odditorium, a mysterious house full of magical elements and the target of dangerous enemies.
Harry Potter fans will love this story of the hijinks of young witches attending a boarding school.
The first book in a series of three, A Tale Dark & Grimm places Hansel and Gretel in other familiar fairy tales, giving a fresh take to each one and weaving through an appropriately dark forest. I just love an interesting fractured fairy tale, and this is a good one for kids.
A young boy has listened to his grandmother’s stories about witches, but what will he do when he finds himself among an entire convention of them?
The Upside Down Magic series is, yes, another book about a school for witches and wizards. But this is the public school version, with kids going home to live with their families in the evening and experiencing some of the family struggles that a lot of us non-magical people have. The main character has “wonky” magic that doesn’t fit neatly into the categories of magic in this world, though in time she learns how special her gifts are. It’s a metaphor for kids with learning differences, and this dyslexia mama loves the message.
This incredibly lyrical book is about a vulnerable village, a baby sacrificed to the forest, and a witch who lurks in the forest. But things aren’t as they seem, and this story casts a spell with a special blend of nature, magic, and powerful women.
If you haven’t already started A Series of Unfortunate Events, now is the perfect time to begin reading the series aloud. The dark story of the orphaned Baudelaire children escaping the wicked Count Olaf’s tireless attempts to steal their fortune is at times funny, at times chilling, and always gripping.