Five Deliciously Scary Books for Children

Want your child to have a good night’s sleep? Maybe don’t choose these spooky reads as their bedtime story…

1. Grimm’s Fairy Tales (The Brothers Grimm)


So you think you know the real stories of Cinderella, Snow White and Rapunzel?

Get ready for a shock, folks: The sanitized Disney movies you know and love are nothing like these gruesome tales. (Unsurprisingly, Uncle Walt opted not to include all the death, dismemberment and attempted cannibalism that feature so strongly in the originals.) The spookiest thing? These were written for children…

2. The Witches (Roald Dahl)


The secret of Roald Dahl’s success lay in his refusal to pander to his young audience.

More than most writers, he understood that kids love to be scared stupid. And what’s scarier than a young boy, suddenly turned into a talking mouse and trapped in a hotel filled with evil witches trying to kill him? It’s truly nerve-wracking stuff. And the refusal to grant the young hero a traditional happy ending is just the ghoulish cherry on the top.

3. The Graveyard Book (Neil Gaiman)

Graveyard book

From the opening line (“There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife”), you know this will be a spine-tingling story.

And it does deliver the chills. But this tale of a graveyard-dwelling boy surrounded by ghosts, ghouls and vampires is also filled with tender moments. And the central idea – for a boy with ghostly parents, a graveyard will never be as scary as the living world – is both creepy and touching.

4. The Velveteen Rabbit (Margery Williams)


Who’d be a toy? You give your best years to being hugged, manhandled, thrown about and dribbled on.

Then if something goes wrong – such as an infectious illness in the household, for example – the solution is to throw you on a fire. While not officially a scary book, this book presents a terrifying idea: that toys are living, highly sensitive creatures that feel every petty cruelty inflicted by their owners. Yikes!

5. The Goosebumps series (R.L. Stine)


The grandmaster of spooking children wrote an impressive total of 62 books.

He brought us homicidal dolls, killer scarecrows, marauding rats and monsters under the sink. He even created a town filled with zombies long before the undead became fashionable. To judge by these stories, Stine seemed personally affronted by the prospect of one of his young readers enjoying a good night’s sleep. Delightfully terrifying, every one of them.

Find out more about Book Trust and receive updates about our work.

It’s election season – so check out our Six Superb Kids Books about Presidents.

Are you kids glued to their electronic devices? It’s the Rise of the Screenagers.

Find out Why Books Matter for Children.


Book Trust