My dear Halloween pumpkins!
Today I want to share with you my favourite Halloween-approved spooky middle grade books that are perfect for this time of year! As you know, I used to be a HUGE scaredy cat – well, I still kinda am, but over the past years I’ve become a huge fan of books with a spooky vibe, be it mysteries with a darker twist, Gothic tales, or adventurous middle grade fiction. This post will be solely dedicated to the latter.
While I haven’t written all the reviews for these books yet I have read some pretty amazing ones recently and I don’t want you to miss out, so I’m going to be sharing the list now and will add all the reviews over time! Let’s get right into my current favourites list!
In no particular order, we have…
Nightbooks by J.A. White
Alex is on his way to throw out his notebooks in which he stores his writing – all scary stories – when all of a sudden he is lured into an open flat and trapped in a witch’s residence. Alex has to read one of his stories to her every night in order to stay alive. Will he get over his writer’s block in time – before the time runs out and the witch gets bored of him, and will he find a way out of this twisted, dark, scary place?
Wow, this was really scary! It has some very dark vibes and I loved this kind of modern Scheherazade story that is full of suspense, danger, and twists you don’t see coming. Highly recommended to readers who can take some proper scary stories!
Shadow School series by J.A. White
In Archimancy, Cordelia Liu moves to a new city with her family. In Shadow School, not only does everything look different, it also feels different: for Cordelia senses something in this place doesn’t feel right…
It doesn’t take her long to realise the school corridors are filled not only with other students and teachers – but ghosts! And she is the only one who can see them…or is she? Together with her new friends, she is determined to find out who they are, how to help them, and why they are there in the first place…
Omg, I LOVED this book! It was definitely super spooky but I loved Cordelia, the friends she makes, her sense of justice, and of course, Shadow School! I think this book is still in the shadows a bit (pun intended!) but it should be up there with all the big names!
In Shadow School: Dehaunting, we meet Cordelia again in her second year at Shadow School. She has learned how to send ghosts on to their afterlives, and everything could be so good…until the ghosts refuse to move on and Cordelia and her friends are confronted with a mystery.
As the friends start to drift apart, will they still find all the answers they need in order to help the ghosts? And will they still call themselves friends in the end?
Such a great sequel, I devoured this in no time at all! Definitely highly recommended – and now I realised there is a third part I didn’t read yet: Shadow School Phantoms – now on my TBR!
The Haunting of Aveline Jones series by Phil Hickes
The Haunting of Aveline Jones is a book I loved earlier this year and I was waiting for the sequel ever since. In this one, Aveline is spending some time away with her aunt while her mother has to look after her grandmother. In the small seaside town, Aveline finds a second-hand book full of ghost stories that are set in this very place. How great is that? Aveline LOVES ghost stories!
But when she is drawn into the story of a young girl’s disappearance some decades ago, Aveline finds out that some ghostly tales might be more than just made-up stories. While Halloween is drawing closer, will the town’s scary legend prove right? This was so good! Hair-raisingly spooky, and it sets the perfect mood for Halloween! Here is my review in case you are interested.
I am currently reading part two, The Bewitching of Aveline Jones, and even though I’m only two chapters in I can already tell I am going to love this one just as much. In this instalment, Aveline is on holiday with her mother, and the cottage they have rented is located directly next to a stone circle known as the ‘Witch Stones’. Obviously, Aveline is delighted about this, but even her first encounter in the stone circle is…odd, to say the least. Will Aveline find out where the circle has its name? Can’t wait to read on!!
The Small Spaces series by Katherine Arden
Small Spaces is probably one of my all-time favourite books. It features Ollie, a young girl who has lost her mother in a terrible accident and stays to herself ever since. One day, Ollie meets a strange woman and steals the book she was about to throw into the water… ever since, nothing has been the same for Ollie. When she goes on a school trip to a farm, their bus gets stuck and the bus driver warns Ollie that they will soon come for them… Ollie leaves the bus, together with Coco and Brian. Just in time, before something terrible happens…
This story is super atmospheric and perfect for October. There are pumpkins, a farm, scarecrows, maybe even ghosts, and something far, far worse… Read it if you dare! Here is my review for more insights.
In the sequel, Dead Voices, the trio has already grown pretty close. That is probably what I love most about this series: the characters undergo immense growth and their friendship is as strong as steel. I love that. So in this one, the three are going on a winter holiday in a ski lodge! It’s far from a winter wonderland though when they are snowed in and all electricity goes out in a place that had formerly been a school with a terrible fate… When the three friends hear the place’s ghost story and the shadows are starting to move for real, Ollie, Coco and Brian understand that the story has more truth to it than they would have liked… An absolute must-read if you have finished Small Spaces and one of the scariest books I have ever read!
Dark Waters is the third instalment and what I thought would be the last in the series – but I was wrong! In this one Ollie, Coco and Brian go on a boat trip with Ollie’s dad and Coco’s mother, who wants to write an article about the local lake monster – obivously all a hoax, right? Well… wait and see. On the boat, they meet the captain’s nephew Phil, Brian’s former best friend and the boy who was so mean to Coco when the story began. The trio finds out that the one who is after might be closer than they think – even now, out on the lake… Out of nowhere, their ship gets attacked, they lose their captain, and Ollie’s father gets bitten by something venomous – or maybe even deadly. When they are stranded on an island nobody knew even existed, they soon realise they are running out of time. Will they get help for Ollie’s dad in time? Will they find a boat to get them out of there? Is the island really deserted? And…is the lake monster really only that – a lake monster? Read it and find out – if you dare!
A bit shorter than I would have liked and it doesn’t go into as much detail as the former books in this series, I thought this was probably the weakest of the three – but still a must-read if you are a fan! It also was the least spooky of them all, but to top Dead Voices is pretty much impossible, I think…
Moondial by Helen Cresswell
Minty stays with her aunt in a stately manor for the summer. In the garden, she finds a sundial… moondial! Minty is always in search for adventure – the spookier the better. And then she comes across… a ghost! Of a young boy! But why are his clothes so strange? And why is he speaking in such an old-fashioned way? Could it be that he isn’t a ghost at all, but she travelled back in time? Or maybe…it is both!? Then Minty gets a very important task…to save the children stuck in the past.
I really liked this! Moondial is a very quick read, and I loved how independent and strong Minty is. There are definitely some very spooky vibes here and there, but not all of the book is scary. At some points it left me a tad bit confused and didn’t answer all my questions, but it was still a great read and perfect for the Halloween season!
The Bone Garden by Heather Kassner
Iréelle is made of bone dust and imagination, and therefore bound to her mean tormentor. When she is threatened to be ‘unmade’, the girl manages to flee. Down and down she runs into the underground tunnel under the graveyard, and practically stumbles over a friend in need – like herself. Together, will they be able to find the unmarked grave that their creator, Miss Vesper, is after – before she can turn them back to dust?
The setting of this book is super dark and spooky, it gave me goosebumps all the way through! The Gothic vibes as well as the graveyard setting, the bone dust extracting, the walking hand (!) and the villain in this story made this book the ultimate Halloween read, and I highly recommend it! You can read my detailed review here.
The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson
This was such a lovely whimsical read! Marinka lives with her grandmother in a house with chicken legs. This is not a metaphor – the house actually has chicken legs and it uses them to its liking. When it wants to move, it gets up and walks somewhere else. This, together with the fact that Marinka’s grandmother is a Yaga (one of those people who guide the dead into the otherworld) makes it quite hard for her to have any friends. Any real friends (weird houses with chicken legs and birds don’t count!). When Marinka gets the chance to make a real friend – a living, breathing one – she breaks all the rules she’s been taught all her life…with huge consequences. And then, her grandmother disappears. The only person Marinka had in her life as a constant rock. Will she find a way out of this mess she created?
This book made me cry so much! It’s spooky, yes – there is death on basically every page! – but it is also about family, about what it means to be family, the importance of friendship, and it has some very deep messages. And even though I felt the ending wasn’t as satisfactory as I would have wished, I still loved this read!
City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab
Cassidy can see ghosts – her best friend Jacob being one of them. Her parents would like to see them. As self-proclaimed ghost hunters, they take Cassidy to Edinburgh – aka the world’s most haunted city – to film a brand new tv series. There, Cass meets Lara – a girl who, like her, can see the dead. Lara tells Cassidy their task as ‘in-betweeners’ is to send the ghosts on to the other side – for ever. Cassidy is not so sure… and then, she finds herself in the biggest danger…
I really liked Cassidy’s friendship with Jacob, and I found the the theory behind her ability refreshing and unique. The Scottish setting was incredible and perfect for this ghostly middle grade – highly recommended!