Some parents may be skeptical about introducing their children to scary stories. Some kids experience nightmares, struggle to sleep, or get nervous about certain places or things related to the horror stories they’ve read or watched.
It’s perfectly normal to feel a little apprehensive about it but this list can help shine a light on children’s books that only touch on the horror genre, creating more of a creepy and exciting experience rather than inciting fear or nightmares.
Depending on how much your child likes horror stories, you may want to look into a variety of different books that range from slightly creepy to full-on scary, to make sure you’re picking the right book for your little one.
Coraline, a very famous novel written in 2002 by Neil Gaiman, is a great example of a children’s book that flirts with the horror genre. It follows a young girl called Coraline, who is transported to a parallel world in which her family is twisted and her ‘Other Mother’ who has imprisoned her real parents and wants to keep them there.
The book is creepy and has a dark undercurrent that may provoke fear in your child. It is one of the more sinister and disturbing children’s books available, so be cautious – you may even want to read it yourself beforehand to understand how scary it can actually be.
This list will provide a collection of books that are similar in genre and nature but vary on the scary scale. Some books recommended in this list are appropriate for young kids, whereas others include darker and more complex themes and should be read only by children over the age of 10.
Without further ado, here are 20 scary children’s books that are similar to Coraline.
The Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine
This series is targeted at children aged 8-12. It follows various different creepy adventure stories that incorporate ghosts, vampires, mummies, and ghouls.
Varying in theme, tone, and plot line, these stories can provide you with hours of entertainment, allowing you to dive in and out of terrifying settings and explore a plethora of interesting adventures. The Goosebumps series is one of the most famous scary kid’s books, well deserving of its reputation.
Small Spaces by Katherine Arden
Ollie reads a book that follows a group of siblings and their experience with ‘the smiling man’. He grants you anything you could wish for but asks for the ultimate price in return. Ollie loves the book, but when she finds the exact same names of the characters in a graveyard during a school trip, things get scarier.
The bus driver tells the kids that they come alive at night and this, combined with the frightening message that appears on Ollie’s watch is enough to incite a whole lot of fear. Was Ollie’s book non-fiction? And how much danger are they in?
Small Spaces is a great, but creepy, book for kids above the age of 10.
The Last Chance Hotel by Nicki Thornton
Seth works in the kitchens at the creepy Last Chance Hotel. When a group of magicians come to stay and one of them gets poisoned, all eyes are on Seth as suspect number one.
Seth must prove his innocence whilst trying to avoid the dark magic that these visitors are equipped with. The Last Chance Hotel is a brilliant blend of fantasy and horror, guaranteed to appeal to any horror-loving child.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Another fantastic book from the same author who wrote Coraline. The Graveyard Book tells the story of Bod, short for Nobody Owens, who is raised by ghosts inside a graveyard. Not your normal upbringing…
He is confined to the graveyard, fearing that Jack, the man who murdered his family, will come after him too. This book follows his adventures within the graveyard as he uncovers dark secrets and explores the interesting and eerie characters that live within it.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
This is a brilliant novel, worthy of all the positive reviews. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children follows Jacob, a 16-year-old boy who discovers an abandoned orphanage just off the Welsh coast.
As he explores more, he realizes how dangerous these children may have been and becomes convinced that they are still alive. This is a terrifying and haunting book that incorporates real themes, making the story all the more scary.
Room 13 by Robert Swindells
Crow’s Nest Hotel has no room 13. So when the cupboard in room 12 starts acting strange and Ellie-May Sunderland starts behaving differently, it’s apparent that something a lot more sinister is happening.
Room 13 is a brilliantly creepy book, flirting with the supernatural, experimenting with mystery, and provoking chills down the spine of every reader.
Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh
Harper Raine is new in school, so she’s already experiencing loads of uncertainty and struggling to fit in. So when you throw a haunted house and a brother suffering from ghostly encounters in the mix, things are bound to get worse.
Spirit Hunters is the story of Harper’s attempt to rid her house of ghosts and help her brother. She is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery and will uncover every secret she can to make sure ghosts do not continue to ruin her and her family’s lives.
A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
This is a great series that has been read and adored since the release of the first book. A Series of Unfortunate Events follows the cursed lives of three orphaned siblings, Klaus, Violet, and Sunny whose lives get dangerously entangled with Count Olaf, who is after their inherited fortune and he is willing to do anything for it.
This is a twisted story that tackles complex themes such as violence, abuse, and torture.
The Spiderwick Chronicles by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black
After moving into a massive, old, eerie mansion, siblings Mallory, Simon, and Jared uncover the dark magic and dangerous creatures that lurk within the house’s history.
The Spiderwick Chronicles begins as these three accidentally unleash the monsters and must entangle themselves in the ancient supernatural history of the house to get everything back to normal.
This story is a great blend of fantasy and horror, perfect for parents who want to gently introduce their child to the horror genre.
The Witches by Roald Dahl
Roald Dahl has famously written a range of fantastic children’s books and this one is no exception!
The Witches is narrated by a grandmother, telling her grandson about the dangerous and terrifying witches that want to live in a child-free world. They will use every complex spell they can to get rid of all the children, so when the grandson meets the Grand High Witch in person, there’s no wonder he’s terrified.
The Spook’s Apprentice by Joseph Delaney
Thomas Ward is the last apprentice of Old Gregory, the famous Spook that has been cleansing the area of evil for years. As he ages, he needs someone to take over his job and Thomas is the only one who can do it.
The Spook’s Apprentice incorporates a plethora of ghostly creatures and Thomas must now rise to the challenge, the challenge that many have failed or disregarded before him.
All the Lovely Bad Ones by Mary Downing Hahn
Travis and his sister Corey have been pranking the town – tricking them into thinking that their grandmother’s inn is haunted. Many tourists have shown up, eager to see a supernatural sighting, so business has never been better.
But when ghosts start appearing and creepy stuff begins happening, there’s no explanation, and Travis and Corey realize they’ve got themselves into a big mess.
All the Lovely Bad Ones has dark and creepy undertones but will be suitable for readers over the age of 9.
The Thief of Always by Clive Barker
Mr. Hood’s Holiday House has long been known as a utopia for children – somewhere that grants wishes and makes dreams come true.
So when Harvey Swick arrives out of curiosity, he expects nothing less than that. But what’s on the inside is a very different story. Creatures lurk in the darkness and the house has an eerie feel about it. Will Harvey make it out alive?
The Thief of Always is suitable for children over the age of 10 but it is a little creepier than a lot of the books on this list, so proceed with caution.
The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud
This is the first in the iconic Lockwood & Co series that has recently been made into a series adaptation. The Screaming Staircase follows Lucy, who, with the help of the Lockwood & Co agency, wants to investigate the sinister release of ghosts, spirits, and ghouls that have appeared across London.
This is an excellently-written book, deserving of the hype – a brilliant choice that again merges fantasy with horror.
Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror by Chris Priestley
Edgar visits his uncle regularly. Living in a huge house by himself, Montague’s imagination runs wild and when his nephew comes to visit, he finally gets to tell his stories. Each story is creepy and focuses on children in grave danger but they’re realistic and Edgar is getting more afraid with each one.
Is Montague telling the truth? Or is he just a good storyteller?
Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror is a fantastic book guaranteed to make you shiver.
The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier
The Night Gardener is the story of two orphans, who escaped the perilous situation in Ireland to work in a dark, creepy manor house in neighboring England.
Although the house has always felt eerie, the reality is not what anyone thought. A mysterious ghost appears and the two children are dragged into an ancient curse that will change the course of their lives.
Crater Lake by Jennifer Killick
Crater Lake is the story of a boring school trip that develops into something of a child’s nightmare! Lance and his classmates are bored and want to go home. But when mysterious things keep happening, everyone starts to realize that things aren’t right.
What starts with a mysterious man covered in blood, ends with the pupils fighting for their lives. If they fall asleep, they will turn into bug-like members of an alien species. How can they stop this weird and terrifying curse and will they make it out before they turn on each other?
A Dark, Dark Tale by Ruth Brown
This story is aimed at the little ones and is only mildly scary. It follows a mysterious black cat who works its way through a dark forest and into a creepy old house passing spooky things along the way.
A Dark, Dark Tale is a brilliant read for young children, often used at schools for group reading sessions.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
This collection of stories is grounded in American folklore and explores the frightening, supernatural horrors that lurk in normal places.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark encompasses ghosts, witches, poltergeists, and vampires, a spine-tingling collection that will keep you engaged until the end.
Seaglass by Eloise Williams
Lark’s life seems in tatters – her mother is ill, her best friend is not speaking to her, and her sister is not speaking at all. When she goes on a family trip and things seem like they can’t get worse, Lark begins noticing things in the fog. Legend has it, a woman hunts down sisters and wherever you are, she will find you.
Seaglass is a chilling story that will appeal to most horror-loving children but this one is a little scarier, so maybe leave it for the older kids.
When picking out the perfect scary children’s story it can be difficult to gauge how scary certain books are and if they’re appropriate for your child (if you’re looking for scary books for an older reader, check out our guide to Scary Books for Teens here). If you’re still unsure after reading the descriptions in this article, a good port of call is the reviews section on any site like Goodreads or Amazon, or if in doubt, read the book yourself beforehand. That way you can decide for yourself whether the book is appropriate for your child and their taste.
We hope this article has been helpful and provided you with some inspiration!
Is Coraline suitable for under 10s?
Both the book and the film adaptation are suitable for children aged 10 years and older. Although some children may be fine reading or watching this text aged 8 or 9, it is not recommended, so proceed with caution!
Why is Coraline disturbing?
The plot is pretty twisted – it follows a young girl who gets trapped in another parallel universe and she must try to save herself and her family from the ‘Other Mother’ who wants to keep their souls. The people, including Coraline, who live in this other world all have sewn eyes. The themes and images in this text can be disturbing for children.
What is the message of Coraline?
The moral of this story is that relationships between children and parents should be appreciated.
What is the most disturbing kid’s book out there?
Some versions of the Grimms fairy tales are very disturbing, often including violence, disease, torture, and death. The worst of which is Hansel and Gretel which includes themes of cannibalism and abuse – definitely not recommended as kids reading.
How do I know if my child is ready to read horror books?
Slowly introduce your child to stories with a creepier sentiment and see how they react. Make sure to start gently to avoid nightmares and general fear. If your child reacts well, they will probably enjoy books like Coraline.