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.

Spooky & Seasonal Picture Books

The photograph depicts a variety of pumpkin - white and green, yellow. and shades of orange - surrounding one large orange pumpkin decorated like a jack-o-lantern, with red cheeks, three white teeth, eyes with red and yellow irises, and a pointy witch's hat in red and orange, decorated with black cats and orange moons. All are resting on a tablecloth in black and white with a motif of bats, jack-o-lanterns, and the word "Halloween" repeating.
Photo by Bee Felten-Leidel on Unsplash.

By Eliana H. 

As the weather turns crisp and we start preparing for fall holidays, you might be looking for books to get little ones into a spooky mood. Our staff have selected some picture books to share with the family this season. Whether you are looking for thrilling tales, heartwarming narratives, or sillier stories, there is something for you. 

The cover of "Creepy Carrots!" shows a startled rabbit in the foreground, dressed in a collared shirt and striped pants. In the background are three carrots, two with angry expressions, one of them literally "blowing his top" as his head and eyes have separated from his body; the third carrot has a surprised expression. All are against a background of clouds, standing on a hill with grass and small plants growing. The illustration is in shades of white, brown, and orange.

Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds (ages 4-8) 

Jasper Rabbit loves carrots, especially the ones from Crackenhopper Field. His love turns to fear once he swears he starts to see the carrots following him everywhere! Are the carrots really following him, or is Jasper just imagining it? Read this clever tale to find out. 

The cover of "What's in the Witch's Kitchen?" shows the title in yellow, rose, gree, and red lettering against the backdrop of a spooky house in black silhouette, with a witch on a broom silhouetted against the moon above, bats flying around the chimney, and a spider dangling off the rain gutters. A lizard in silhouette is climbing up the side of the house, and a black cat peers out from the window beneath a hanging lamp. The subtitle, "A book with MAGIC changing pictures!," is written on the purple door in beige and white print.

What’s in the Witch’s Kitchen by Nick Sharratt (ages 3-7) 

Find out what this witch has brewing in her kitchen in this fun, interactive tale. Choose to flip the flap left or right and see what you find! Will it be a nasty trick, or a delicious treat?

The cover of "Fright Club" shows various classic monsters, including Frankenstein, Dracula, a ghost, a mummy, and a werewolf, peering out from a hinged wooden window that is propped open. A spider dangles from the title and peers down at the group.

 Fright Club by Ethan Long (ages 3-6) 

Each year, on the eve of Halloween, Fright Club meets to go over their plans for scaring kids on the biggest day of the year for scares. Only the scariest monsters are allowed in Fright Club, but this year, a group of adorable critters want to join. Vladimir, the leader of the club, refuses to let them join, but these cute little critters can be scarier than they look. 

The cover of "El Cucuy is Scared, Too!" depicts the title character, El Cucuy, hiding in a yellow pot with a green cactus growing from it. The other main character, Ramón, is patting El Cucuy on the back in a comforting manner. Both are on a colorful woven rug with stripes in shades of red, yellow, and light blue. The title is in the same colors and is surrounded by foliage and flowers in shades of green, red, orange, and pink.

El Cucuy Is Scared Too by Donna Barba Higuera (ages 4-8) 

Ramón and his family recently moved, and he is scared about his first day at his new school. When he talks to El Cucuy, the Mexican Boogeyman used to scare children into good behavior, El Cucuy shares his own fears and worries. With Spanish interspersed through this heartfelt picture book, Ramón and El Cucuy build each other up and remind each other of how strong and brave each of them is.

The cover of The Dark shows a small child dressed in blue, looking through an open door down a set of brown wooden stairs into a basement. The child looks apprehensive and only the first three stairs and part of the stair railing are illuminated; the rest of the basement is in the dark.

 The Dark by Lemony Snicket (ages 4-8) 

One night, Laszlo’s night light – which has always kept the dark at bay – goes out. Laszlo is afraid of the dark, which lives mostly in the basement, and tonight it invites Laszlo down the stairs. The tension builds in this beautifully-illustrated book, but in the end, the dark only wants to help. 

The cover of "Sir Simon: Super Scarer" shows a cute ghost seated at a desk, with a green printer's visor on his head and a typewriter, pile of papers, coffee cup, and pizza and a cookie on the desk. The setup resembles a journalist's desk although the desk itself is a brown trunk that latches. The figure holds up a sheet of paper from the typewriter that says "Super Scarer."

Sir Simon: Super Scarer by Cale Atkinson (ages 4-8) – also available as an ebook from Libby/OverDrive

After haunting other things, including a forest, a bus stop, and a potato, Sir Simon is finally being transferred to his first haunted house! Expecting only old people, Simon is surprised to discover a kid has moved in with his grandma. As Simon and Chester try to help each other with their chores, they discover they’re better at being friends together than trying to take the place of the other. Plenty of fun details will have adults laughing along with the story as well. 

Eliana is a Children’s Instructor and Research Specialist at HCLS Elkridge Branch. She loves reading, even if she’s slow at it, and especially enjoys helping people find books that make them light up. She also loves being outside and spending time with friends and family (when it’s safe).

Explore the Ghoulish side of the Globe with the Atlas of Monsters and Ghosts!

The picture depicts a teal-colored fish-like monster with a yellow eye next to the book, which has a teal color and depicts a variety of monsters, including dragons, snakes, and Dracula.

By Claudia J.

Ok, I’ll admit it: I love Halloween but I’m not the biggest fan of scary things. You won’t catch me at a movie theater watching the latest film from the Halloween franchise or reading IT by Stephen King. I tend to focus on the lighter side of the season. Yet, when I was browsing through some of the oversized books that live upstairs at the Miller Branch, I stopped at a bright teal atlas filled to the brim with whimsical illustrations and trips around our world. However, instead of historic sites and tourist destinations, this atlas is filled with MONSTERS and GHOSTS!

Atlas of Monsters and Ghosts by Federica Magrin, with immensely detailed illustrations by Larua Brenlla, takes readers on a ghastly trip to hunt down the most fearsome creatures known to humanity. Each continent is covered throughout the pages, highlighting monsters and ghosts with cultural significance. I’m sure most of us already know of Bigfoot, King Kong, and the Boogeyman through classic stories and tales. But have you heard of the Smok Wawelski from Poland, a fearsome dragon from the cave at the foot of Wawel Hill? Or Krasue, the spirit from Thailand with the floating head who feeds on anything in her sights? These monsters and spirits are not only highlighted, but their stories are tied in with learning about each country’s tales and fables. One particular feature of the atlas that I enjoyed was that it gave special sections to the monsters and spirits of Greek Mythology and the ones from Japanese folktales, both of which have been spotlighted in various other stories, movies, and video games.

One fair warning for all my budding Monster Hunters: some of these stories, no matter your age, are not for the faint of heart despite its art style and its publisher, Lonely Planet Kids. Nevertheless, it was an interesting, spooktacular read, one that may send a chill up your spine, but which will definitely teach you something new along the way. What I learned is to not visit the places where these creatures have been spotted! I think I’ll opt for a warm beach instead.

You can borrow or request Atlas of Monsters and Ghosts at all HCLS locations for your horrific, spooky enjoyment.

Claudia J. is an Instructor and Research Specialist for Howard County Library System. She enjoys stories in all forms, from books to graphic novels, movies to video games: you name it!