If you live for all things spooky, then never fear: the Horror Writers Association (HWA) has your back with a curated list of horror book recommendations for all ages. In partnership with United for Libraries, Book Riot, and Booklist, the HWA offers Summer Scares, promoting “horror as a great reading option for all ages and during any time of the year.” Plano Public Library gives you access to all of these titles and more. Check out the 2023 Summer Scares for middle grade readers below!
After suffering a tragic loss, eleven-year-old Ollie only finds solace in books. So when she happens upon a crazed woman at the river threatening to throw a book into the water, Ollie doesn’t think–she just acts, stealing the book and running away. As she begins to read the slender volume, Ollie discovers a chilling story about a girl named Beth, the two brothers who both loved her, and a peculiar deal made with “the smiling man, ” a sinister specter who grants your most tightly held wish, but only for the ultimate price. Ollie is captivated by the tale until her school trip the next day to Smoke Hollow, a local farm with a haunting history all its own. There she stumbles upon the graves of the very people she’s been reading about. Could it be the story about the smiling man is true? Ollie doesn’t have too long to think about the answer to that. On the way home, the school bus breaks down, sending their teacher back to the farm for help. But the strange bus driver has some advice for the kids left behind in his care: “Best get moving. At nightfall they’ll come for the rest of you.” Nightfall is, indeed, fast descending when Ollie’s previously broken digital wristwatch, a keepsake reminder of better times, begins a startling countdown and delivers a terrifying message: RUN. Only Ollie and two of her classmates heed the bus driver’s warning. As the trio head out into the woods–bordered by a field of scarecrows that seem to be watching them–the bus driver has just one final piece of advice for Ollie and her friends: “Avoid large places. Keep to small.” And with that, a deliciously creepy and hair-raising adventure begins.
Living Ghosts and Mischievous Monsters: Chilling American Indian Stories by Dan SaSuWeh Jones (Print)
Dark figures in the night. An owl’s cry on the wind. Monsters watching from the edge of the wood.
Some of the creatures in these pages might only have a message for you, but some are the stuff of nightmares. These thirty-two short stories — from tales passed down for generations to accounts that could have happened yesterday — are collected from the thriving tradition of ghost stories from American Indian cultures across North America. Prepare for stories of witches and walking dolls, hungry skeletons, La Llorona and Deer Woman, and other supernatural beings ready to chill you to the bone. Dan SaSuWeh Jones (Ponca Nation) tells of his own encounters and selects his favorite spooky, eerie, surprising, and spine-tingling stories, all paired with haunting art by Weshoyot Alvitre (Tongva).
So dim the lights (or maybe turn them all on) and pick up a story…if you dare.
A Small Zombie Problem by K.G. Campbell (Print)
August DuPont has spent his whole life inside a dilapidated house with his aunt Hydrangea. His lonely existence ends abruptly with the arrival of an invitation to meet an aunt–and cousins–he didn’t even know existed. When Aunt Orchid suggests that August attend school with his cousins, it’s a dream come true. But August has scarcely begun to celebrate his reversal of fortune when he is confronted by a small problem on his way home. So begins an adventure filled with a wild child, a zombie, a fabled white alligator, and an unimaginable family secret.
Plano Public Library has much to offer for horror book lovers as well as readers new to the genre. Explore some of our favorite titles and authors below, all available at a PPL location near you!
Inspired by True Events:
The Keeper by Guadalupe García McCall (Print)
James always knew moving from Texas to Oregon was going to be horrible.. But no sooner have he and his family arrived in their “perfect” new home in their “perfect” new town than he starts getting mysterious letters from someone called the Keeper. Someone who claims to be watching him. Someone who is looking for “young blood.”
James and his sister, Ava, are obviously in danger. But the problem with having a history of playing practical jokes is that no one believes James–not even his parents. Now James and Ava need to figure out who is sending the letters before they become the next victims in their neighborhood’s long history of missing children.
Because one thing is clear: uncovering the truth about the Keeper is the only thing that will keep them alive.
Celeste knows she should be excited to spend two weeks at her grandparents’ lake house with her brother, Owen, and their cousins Capri and Daisy, but she’s not. Bugs, bad cell reception, and the dark waters of the lake… no thanks. On top of that, she just failed her swim test and hates being in the water-it’s terrifying. But her grandparents are strong believers in their family knowing how to swim, especially having grown up during a time of segregation at public pools. And soon strange things start happening-the sound of footsteps overhead late at night. A flickering light in the attic window. And Celeste’s cousins start accusing her of pranking them when she’s been nowhere near them!
One haunted orphanage + two types of ghosts + three freaked-out friends = plenty of trouble. Best friends Aldo, Pen, and Jasper are braced for a boring summer. And equally dull summer journal writing assignments. That is, until they see a slightly transparent boy with a bad haircut appear by the soccer field and then disappear into the woods beyond. The boys follow him and discover the long-abandoned Grauche Orphanage for Orphans, a house in the woods that is most definitely haunted.
But the ghosts are not the problem. They have been trapped at the orphanage by a cranky poltergeist who erupts into violent tantrums if they put even a spectral toe across the property line. The ghosts ask the boys to help free them–but who is the angry poltergeist and what does it want? To solve the mystery, the trio must investigate the orphanage’s dark past, evade Aldo’s ghastly older brother, borrow a skeptical librarian, and duck lots of flying furniture, all while failing to agree on almost anything. Can they defeat the evil entity and rescue the ghosts before their parents catch on and ground them for eternity?
A Mortuary for Monsters? Sounds Delightful:
Thirteen-year-old Molly doesn’t know how she got the short end of the stick — being raised by her neglectful father — while Dustin, the older brother she’s never met, got their mother and the keys to the family estate. But now the siblings are both orphaned, she’s come home for her inheritance, and if Dustin won’t welcome her into the family business, then she’ll happily take her half in cash. There’s just one problem: the family business is a mortuary for monsters, and Molly’s not sure she’s ready to deal with mysterious doors, talking wolves, a rogue devourer of magic, and a secret cemetery. It’s going to take all of Dustin’s stuffy supernatural knowledge and Molly’s most heroic cosplay (plus a little help from non-human friends) for the siblings to figure it out and save the day… if only they can get along for five minutes.
Vampires and Slayers – The Best of Both Worlds:
Serwa Boateng’s Guide to Vampire Hunting by Roseanne A. Brown (Print)
For most kids, catching fireflies is a fun summer activity. For twelve-year-old Serwa Boateng, it’s a matter of life and death. That’s because Serwa knows that some fireflies are really adze, shapeshifting vampires from the forests of Southeastern Ghana. Adze prey on the blood of innocents, possessing their minds and turning them into hulking monsters, and for generations, slayers like Serwa and her parents have protected an unknowing public from their threats.
Serwa is the best adze slayer her age, and she knew how to use a crossbow before she could even ride a bike. But when an obayifo (witch) destroys her childhood home while searching for a drum, do Serwa’s parents take her with them on their quest to defeat her? No. Instead, they dump Serwa with her hippie aunt and cryptic-obsessed cousin in the middle of Nowheresville, Maryland “for her own safety.” Now, instead of crossbows and battle armor, she’s dealing with mean girls and algebra, and for the first time in her life she doesn’t have to carry a staff everywhere she goes, which is . . . kind of nice, actually.
Just as Serwa starts to get the hang of this whole normal girl who doesn’t punch vampires every day thing, an adze infiltrates her school. It’s up to her to whip some of her classmates into monster-fighting shape before all of them become firefly food. And when she uncovers a secret that upends everything she thought she knew about her family’s role in the slayer vs. adze war, Serwa will have to decide which side of herself–normal girl or slayer–is the right one. After all, seventh grade is hard enough without adding vampires to the mix.
After one hundred years of being a vampire, it’s time for Eleonora to have her Birthnight. Since Leo’s last rite of passage, her Grimwalk, ended with her losing her right leg and a good deal of her confidence, she’s hoping to redeem herself in the eyes of her mother, the fearsome Lady Sieglinde. All Leo has to do is hunt down and kill her first prey, and she already has the perfect plan. After all, who will miss an orphan from the bleak St. Frieda’s Home for Unfortunate Children?
But an accidental fire causes more death and destruction than Leo bargained for. Instead of killing one carefully selected victim, she’s created several ghosts from the orphanage residents. And one sinister specter, the Orphanmaster, is poised to terrorize the living residents in a nearby town. To stop him and try to undo some of the mess she’s made, Leo must team up with the orphan ghost Minna.
Will Leo have the chance to prove herself as a vampire before her Birthnight is over, or will she discover that there are no winners in the battle of undead versus undead?
Witches, Ghosts, and Serial Killers, Oh My:
Evie Von Rathe lives in Blight Harbor–the seventh-most haunted town in America–with her Aunt Desdemona, the local paranormal expert. Des doesn’t have many rules except one: Stay out of the abandoned slaughterhouse at the edge of town. But when her aunt disappears into the building, Evie goes searching for her.
There she meets The Clackity, a creature who lives in the shadows and seams of the slaughterhouse. The Clackity makes a deal with Evie to help get Des back in exchange for the ghost of John Jeffrey Pope, a serial killer who stalked Blight Harbor a hundred years earlier. Evie reluctantly embarks on a journey into a strange otherworld filled with hungry witches, penny-eyed ghosts, and a memory-thief, all while being pursued by a dead man whose only goal is to add Evie to his collection of lost souls. Will she ever find Des, or is The Clackity planning something far more sinister?
Summer Camp Horror:
Camp Scare by Delilah S. Dawson (Print)
Don’t forget your flashlight. . .
Parker Nelson can’t wait for summer camp. She’ll have fun and make amazing memories, far away from the bullies who made seventh grade unbearable. But then something terrible happens- The mean girl who made life a living nightmare is in Parker’s cabin. Soon all the other girls turn on Parker, too-no one wants to be her friend. Except Jenny.
Jenny’s the only one who is willing to listen. The only one who understands. The only one who feels the same way Parker does- that there’s a deep, dark secret to making friends and she’s the only one who doesn’t know it. But there’s something else Parker doesn’t know. Something bad happened at the camp a long time ago, and it just won’t stay buried. . .
Digital Natives Beware:
Darkroom by K. R. Alexander (Print)
Beatrice knows she doesn’t have any followers. Nobody wants to watch her living her ordinary life. But then she stumbles across a new app, DARK[room]. Some users say it’s super cool. Others say it’s super dangerous. Beatrice downloads it and discovers that it allows her to see ghosts everywhere around her. And they’re going to get her if she doesn’t get them first. When Beatrice streams her haunted encounters, people think she’s making them up. But she’s not. She’s in a fight for her life.
If You Love Neil Gaiman and Goosebumps, This One’s For You:
Krazyland by Mar Romasco Moore (Print)
Nathan used to be terrified of Krazyland when he was a young kid. Now that he’s 12, the spooky-themed arcade games aren’t that bad. He even enjoys stomping on plastic spiders and battling a creepy doll with big plastic eyes. But things become scarier again when kids start to go missing from the entertainment park…
There’s another world that exists beneath Krazytown’s ball pit. A world where the entertainment park’s games come to life. And if he isn’t careful, Nathan is going to be the next one sucked under!
A Modern (and Middle Grade) Twist on Firestarter:
Aly Theland doesn’t understand what’s happening to her. She comes from a very normal family and lives a very normal life.
There’s only one thing off. When Aly gets angry, things burst into flame.
Aly doesn’t feel she’s in control of this. But as the fires get better and the stakes get higher, something has to be done. Because it’s not just flames Aly’s unleashing, it’s… evil.
The King of Middle Grade Horror Is At It Again:
Spinetinglers by R. L. Stine (Print)
From R.L. Stine, the master of horror for young readers, comes ten new stories that are sure to leave you shivering. A boy who hates bugs starts to see them everywhere. A basketball player’s skin starts to almost drip off his hands–but no one else can see it. Three friends find a hole in the ground that just gets bigger, and bigger, and bigger . . . And each story is introduced by Stine himself, providing a personal touch sure to delight fans.Laced with Stine’s signature humor and a hefty dose of nightmarish fun, Stinetinglers is perfect for fans of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and Stine’s own Goosebumps books. These chilling tales prove that Stine’s epic legacy in the horror genre is justly earned. Dive in, and beware: you might be sleeping with the lights on tonight!
The Worst Game of Hide and Seek Ever:
The Hiddenseek by Nate Cernosek (Print)
After Holly and Hector Thorn are left behind during a simple game of hide-and-seek, they find themselves transported to the Hiddenseek — a cursed world seemingly trapped in time. There, It, a shape-shifting witch, stalks children day and night, turning any she can lay her hands on into statues, frozen in their final moments of terror. Together with the other lost children they encounter, Holly and Hector will have to unravel the mysterious origins of the Hiddenseek and find a way to put a stop to the curse once and for all, before they get stuck there forever … because in this twisted game of hide-and-seek, they are playing for their lives.