Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Four Favorite Spooky Middle Grade Reads

With Halloween just a day away, what better time to settle back with a scary book?

Here are some of my favorite spooky reads for middle-schoolers....

JANE-EMILY by Patricia Clapp
Though I first read this recently, I'm positive that the nine year old me would have read the cover off of this wonderfully gothic, creepy story about a girl and her aunt who visit a rambling mansion  haunted by the ghost of an evil child. Mysterious mansion. Orphan. Eerie reflecting ball in the garden. Malevolent child ghost. Does it get spookier than this? This is a HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE for young readers. Not for the faint of heart -- but perfect for precocious readers who don't mind sleeping with the light on for, oh, a week or two. (Kidding. Sort of.)

I love these beautifully written Poe-like tales that are woven into a novel but could stand-alone for classroom read-alouds, as well. Priestley is a master of atmosphere and surprising twists, and the surreal quality to many of the stories that "Uncle Montague" tells his young nephew, Edward hung with me long after I finished reading. Priestley's deft use of language make this a great book for writing teachers to have a look at, especially.

Bellairs books dominate my childhood memories so much that I'm always surprised that so many people my general age haven't heard of him. This book is the first in a series about Lewis Barnavelt, an anxious yet endearing overweight ten-year-old who has all sorts of creepy adventures after he moves in with his wizard uncle. The books skillfully interweave Lewis' challenges at school with his scary missions, making Bellairs' books much more than quick entertaining reads. His books are probably better for 10+, as they can get quite intense.

No doubt you've already read this fantastic 2009 Newbery winner about a young boy adopted and protected by the denizens of a graveyard, but a list of my favorites wouldn't be complete without it. If you haven't discovered it yet, it's time!

Happy Halloween!


Kristen Kittscher grew up in many different places, including San Francisco, Dallas, and London but she feels most at home in Southern California, where she lives with her husband. A graduate of Brown University and former English teacher, she now writes funny mysteries for the precocious middle-schoolers she once enjoyed teaching so much. Her debut novel, The Wig in the Window, comes out in Summer 2013 with Harper Children’s. She's at work on the sequel, The Tiara on the Terrace.


  1. I LOVE John Bellairs and remember reading so many of them when I was growing up. The biggest bonus of these books, for me, is the Edward Gorey covers and illustrations!!

  2. So glad to meet another Bellairs fan! Just re-read The House with the Clock in its Walls, and it absolutely holds up!

    1. I have to re-read that one, it was by far the most spooky one I remember. Every now & again I grab check one out to read because I have such fond memories of burning through these when I was younger!


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