A Tale Dark and Grimm

‘Where Are the Scary Books?’ Read These YA Tales If You Dare!

By Lisa Carroll

Kids in my library are always asking, "Where are the scary books?" At this time of year, they are all displayed proudly on top of a shelf with a little bit of fake spider web and my "THE WITCH IS IN" sign. Because scary has a range of "creepy" to "terrifying," I like to get a sense of what the student's level of fear is before I recommend a title, but here are some of my favorites.

A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

You can't go wrong with the Brothers Grimm when it comes to creepy, and Adam Gidwitz has done a masterful job of incorporating the originals with a fresh, engaging first-person narrative voice.

"Once upon a time, fairy tales were awesome.

I know, I know. You don't believe me. I don't blame you. A little while ago, I wouldn't have believed it myself. Little girls in red caps skipping around the forest? Awesome? I don't think so.

But then I started to read them. The real, Grimm ones. Very few little girls in red caps in those.

Before I go on, a word of warning: Grimm's stories—the ones that weren't changed for little kids—are violent and bloody. And what you're going to hear now, the one true tale in The Tales of Grimm, is as violent and bloody as you can imagine.


So if such things bother you, we should probably stop right now.

You see, the land of Grimm can be a harrowing place. But it is worth exploring. For, in life, it is in the darkest zones one finds the brightest beauty and most luminous wisdom.

And, of course, the most blood."

The kids love it both because of the humorous tone the narrator takes and because it gets pretty bloody when a young maiden is chopped to bits and such.

Lisa Carroll with the author Adam Gidwitz

Lisa Carroll with the author Adam Gidwitz

Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry

Fifteen-year-old Benny Imura takes up zombie hunting in this post-apocalyptic tale that teaches us that sometimes the "most terrible monsters are human."

Anything by Lois Duncan

This June, we lost acclaimed 1990s author Lois Duncan whose, I Know What You Did Last Summer, became a blockbuster hit starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Freddie Prinze Jr., and Ryan Phillipe.

Even though they're dated (what's a phone booth?) the suspense is great and kids love them. Don't Look Behind You, Stranger With My Face, Down a Dark Hall, Summer of Fear... the list goes on and on.

Anything by Mary Downing Hahn

Mary Downing Hahn is another favorite who writes creepy ghost stories. The movie version of Wait Till Helen Comes is currently in post-production and Deep and Dark and Dangerous, Closed for the Season, and All the Lovely Bad Ones are some of the most popular.

Anything by R.L. Stine

Finally, we have the man, the myth, the legend, R.L. Stine. Super formulaic—every chapter is a cliffhanger—and most of his current books have ghostwriters, but the stories he produces are suspenseful and just scary enough that they appeal to a wide range of kids.

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