Spooktacular Chapter Books for Kids

By Jessica L.

This illustrated book cover shows two Black children on bicycles, framed by white ghostly pillars and colorful strange plants. The title type is wiggly hand-drawn in a purple to orange fade.
Ghost Squad cover

Ghost Squad by Claribel A. Ortega

Claribel Ortega’s debut novel is perfect for middle grade readers who love the paranormal, magic, adventure, and a little mystery. This book celebrates Dominican culture and lore, while also providing beautiful examples of caring adults and loving relationships among families and friends.This book also explores themes of grief, loss, and found family. 

Twelve year old Lucely Luna lives a pretty supernatural life in a haunted house with her father, who gives ghost tours in St. Augustine, Florida. She is surrounded by the spirits of her loved ones who have passed. These spirits, familial fireflies, assume their ghostly human forms to comfort and care for Lucely. Something strange happens to her beloved grandmother’s spirit and Lucely and her best friend, Syd, inadvertently awaken malicious spirits in their efforts to help bring back her grandmother’s spirit. These malevolent spirits not only threaten the existence of Lucely’s fireflies, but desire to drag St. Augustine into the underworld. Lucely, Syd, Syd’s abuela Babette (a real witch), and Babette’s chonky kitty, Chunk, must work together to make everything right once more.

The book cover shows Willa in a green dress with a bear cub at her side in a spooky forest, with dark tree trunks and a purple-twilight background.
Willa of Dark Hollow cover

Willa of Dark Hollow by Robert Beatty

This is the second installment in the Willa of the Wood series by Robert Beatty. However, it’s also a standalone story, so you won’t miss anything if you haven’t read the first book. This story stresses the importance of conserving our natural world and the invaluable relationships we build with family and friends. Themes of found family and the complexity of doing what’s right abound.

Willa is among the last of an ancient Indigenous people of the Great Smoky Mountains, the Faeran. Willa is deeply connected with the forest and the animals with which she can communicate via her Faeran language. Her magical abilities also include camouflage and making trees grow instantly. She is, after all, a young teenage wood witch trained and brought up by her grandmother against the harmful norms of Faeran society. Willa feels helpless against the industrial loggers who continue to destroy the forest in the name of progress. She discovers a dark hollow with strange and beautiful creatures, but the mystery and danger grows as she learns how these dark forces are hunting humans. But are these hunters the right answer to dealing with the loggers as their handiwork endangers her own adoptive family? Can Willa find a way to save her family, the forest, and the animals she loves all by herself?

Other titles and series for kids who enjoy the paranormal and supernatural, fantasy and magic, mystery and adventure: 

Desmond Cole Ghost Patrol by Andres Miedoso
Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty
The Witch’s Boy by Kelly Regan Barnhill
The Forgotten Girl by India Hill Brown
The Strangers by Margaret Peterson Haddix is the first in the Greystone Secrets series
My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish by Mo O’Hara
The School is Alive! by Jack Chabert is the first in the Eerie Elementary series
The Witches of Benevento by John Bemelmans Marciano
Short & Shivery: 30 Chilling Tales by Robert D. San Souci
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark: Three Books to Chill Your Bones By Alvin Schwartz
That One Spooky Night (Graphic Novel) by Dan Bar-el
Rowley Jefferson’s Awesome Friendly Spooky Stories by Jeff Kinney
Scary Stories for Young Foxes by Christian McKay Heidicker

JP has worked for HCLS since 2006. She loves playing with her new orange tabby kittens, Mando & Momo.

Be Yourself, and Maybe a Little Magical

The picture shows all six book covers discussed in the blog post, against a dark background with the title "Books Are Inherently Magical" above them in gold letters.  Clockwise from upper right:  The first image is of the cover of The Witches of Brooklyn with main character of Effie in the forefront. A cityscape is set behind her.  The second image shows the cover of The Sand Warrior, the first in the 5 Worlds series. Main character Oona is in the middle with her friends An Tzu on the left playing a flute, and Jax Amboy on the right, whose left hand is glowing with energy. Oona is manipulating sand. The bottom of the image shows an alien landscape.  The third image is of the cover of Snapdragon with the main character Snap and her bike and dog who is missing a leg in the basket atop the back of the bike. The background is a forest with a spirit of a buck behind Snap.  The fourth image is the cover of The Witch Boy. Main character Aster reads a spell book over an altar made of liquid in a bowl, candles, and a mortar and pestle.  The fifth image is the cover of Beetle and the Hollowbones. Main character Beetle and best friend Blob Ghost are sitting atop a ledge set in front of a full moon over top of houses and trees.  The sixth image is the cover art for The Okay Witch. Main character Moth is riding atop a broomstick with a black cat behind her and pages flying out of a book in her backpack.

By Peter N.

Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, I haven’t had the desire nor the motivation to read. I know that’s a horrible thing to say as an employee of a library (a 5-Star Library system as a matter of fact), but it took me quite a while to get back into reading novels. So you know what I did? I did what I’ve suggested to many a parent who has come in trying to find something to get their child to like reading; I picked up a graphic novel.

Graphic novels can be about literally hundreds of subjects across any number of genres. Many authors have written wonderful original stories as well as graphic representations of classic novels. When a parent needs a suggestion for a book for their reluctant child or when someone wants something interesting to read, I almost always suggest a graphic novel. Why? Well, as a visual learner, I find myself more engaged with the story and with the characters when I see them visually represented, and it’s easier for my brain to follow along without distraction. Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve read graphic novels for adults, teens, tweens, and children. From the many I’ve recently read, here are six picks that teach everyone to be who you are unapologetically, and if you can, be a little magical, too.

This image shows the cover of The Witch Boy. Main character Aster reads a spell book over an altar made of liquid in a bowl, candles, and a mortar and pestle.
The Witch Boy by Molly Ostertag

What I loved about this book is that it challenges the gender norms in Aster’s family and society. In his family, the girls are raised as witches while the boys are raised as shape-shifters. But that isn’t who Aster is, and he practices in secret since it is forbidden for boys to study magic. He desperately wants to be a witch but is afraid of his family finding out. When trouble brews and his magical skills are what’s needed to help save the day, he has to find the courage within himself to be who he feels in his heart that he is meant to be.

The image shows the cover art for The Okay Witch. Main character Moth is riding atop a broomstick with a black cat behind her and pages flying out of a book in her backpack.
The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner

Many will see the similarity between the events of the Salem witch trials and the events of Founder’s Bluff in this book. Moth has always loved all things witchy and magical, so when her powers emerge, she is immediately thrust into a world where the history of her hometown is intertwined with that of her own family. She discovers that her mother was once a member of a powerful coven of witches who separated from a world that despised them but broke away to live a life free of magic. As she discovers this history, she must come to terms with being a witch (which she finds kind of cool) along with the existence of people in town descended from those who discriminated and hated her family and those like her. What’s a fledgling young witch with a talking cat to do?

This image shows the cover of Beetle and the Hollowbones. Main character Beetle and best friend Blob Ghost are sitting atop a ledge set in front of a full moon over top of houses and trees.
Beetle & the Hollowbones by Aliza Layne

Beetle and the Hollowbones is a tale of outgrowing what society expects you to be, standing up for your friends even if it means standing up to them, and embracing and loving who you are. Much like the Witch Boy, Beetle is a goblin and goblins are only supposed to do a specific type of magic and none other. One day she meets Blob Ghost, a, well, ghost blob haunting the local mall that is inexplicably tied to its location. So when the mall is due to be demolished, it is up to Beetle to find out why he’s connected to the mall and rescue him. Along the way she reconnects with an old friend (and love interest) who needs to be reminded about their friendship, who they are, and to stand up to family even if they are family.

This image is of the cover of The Witches of Brooklyn with main character of Effie in the forefront. A cityscape is set behind her.
Witches of Brooklyn by Sophie Escabasse

How would you feel if your life was turned upside down and inside out all of a sudden? That’s what happens to Effie. Having lost her mom and the only home she ever knew, she is suddenly taken to live with two estranged aunts. Once there, Effie learns more about her family than she ever thought possible, including the fact that they can do magic! This newfound knowledge and ability is almost too much for Effie, and it rears its ugly head at the worst of times. She soon starts to accept that this is her life now, that magic is a part of it, and that zany things are going to happen, including helping one of her favorite singers when she comes to Effie’s aunts for help with a nasty curse.

This image is of the cover of Snapdragon with the main character Snap and her bike and dog who is missing a leg in the basket atop the back of the bike. The background is a forest with a spirit of a buck behind Snap.
Snapdragon by Kat Leyh

Snap’s town has a witch. Maybe. Possibly. At least that’s the rumor going around. When Snap needs help from the town “witch”, she learns that there’s more than meets the eye and discovers the power she has within herself. Aside from the super cool supernatural elements, the characters are all a delight to read. And especially the children. They’re the perfect example of prejudice being made, not born, because when given an upbringing that doesn’t include any of that, they can be perfectly accepting of everyone around them without thinking it’s “weird.” They celebrate and encourage uniqueness.

This image shows the cover of The Sand Warrior, the first in the 5 Worlds series. Main character Oona is in the middle with her friends An Tzu on the left playing a flute, and Jax Amboy on the right, whose left hand is glowing with energy. Oona is manipulating sand. The bottom of the image shows an alien landscape.
5 Worlds: The Sand Warrior by Mark Siegel, Alexis Siegel, Xanthe Bouma, Matt Rockefeller, and Boya Sun

What happens when three friends are brought together by unforeseeable circumstances and their group, particularly young sand dancer Oona Lee, is what stands between saving the five worlds and their destruction? Oona must find the power within herself that she didn’t know she had, as well as the confidence to travel the five worlds, light all the beacons, and fend off attacks from the evil hiding in the shadows. Between all of this, she has to save her friend An Tzu, who also has mysterious origins and a tie to what can save everything, from a mysterious ailment. Beautiful art, rich characters, and full of world-building elements, you’ll love this series!

Disclaimer: There are a number of graphic novels on the same subject but these are only the most recent I’ve read. Please visit any Howard County Library branch to learn more!

Peter is an Instructor and Research Specialist at the Miller Branch and LOVES graphic novels and dogs. Especially fluffy dogs.