(Not So) Scary Stories to Read in the Dark

Reading recommendations from Dr. Alice Mar

I have a confession to make. I’ve never been a big fan of Halloween. I’m just not someone who enjoys being scared or spooked. But my kids have always loved the holiday, which I get. Candy and dressing up are pretty fun. So as a compromise, we’ve gravitated towards not-really-all-that-scary books to read as a family.


The Monster at the End of this Book by Jon Stone

This one was a favorite of mine as a kid. So much so, that my Dad used to read it at my birthday parties every year to tons of giggles and squeals. On each page, Grover begs kids not to turn the book page because there is a monster at the end of the book. But of course (spoiler alert), the monster is Grover himself. If you haven’t read this one yet, you are in for a treat.


The Little Old Lady Who was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams

This little lady really isn’t afraid of ANYTHING, not even on a spooky night in the woods when she is being followed by a pair of empty shoes and then pants and a shirt. The repetition is perfect for preschoolers or toddlers who will also enjoy acting out the onomatopoetic words. Fears can be discussed as the old lady is obviously actually a little scared but has an excellent way of dealing with her fear in the end. As a bonus, this one is also a classic and you can even find a song on YouTube.


What Was I Scared Of? by Dr. Seuss

Very similar to the Little Old Lady in the book above, the narrator in this story is terrorized by an empty pair of pants while walking through the woods one night. The twist of this story is that the pants end up being just as scared of the narrator. Like most Dr. Seuss books this one provides a great blend of silliness with a moral (understanding things from someone else’s perspective). A new version has glow-in-the-dark pants to make for an extra fun read.


Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds

Jasper Carrot LOVES carrots. However, he has a problem. One day he begins to to see the carrots following him. No one believes him and he isn’t completely sure but he is completely freaked out. He comes up with a plan to ensure that the carrots can’t get out of their field and terrorize him. The twist is that the carrots are rejoicing at the end because their plan all along was to keep him out of their field so he’d stop eating them. The illustrations in this goofy (and slightly scary) book are fantastic: done all in black and white except for the orange carrots. The illustrator, Peter Brown, won a Caldecott for it in 2012. And as a bonus check our the new book about Jasper by the same team: Creepy Pair of Underwear! ***As a note of warning, one of my kids pointed out he would have been petrified by this book as a child. Which is true, he was very scared when he was little of books or videos with inanimate objects that could talk or acted like people. So, as always, know your own kids. 


Leo, a Ghost Story by Mac Barnett

Leo is a ghost who lives in a house all by himself. No one can see him. Until one day he meets Jane, who has an awesome imagination. She thinks Leo is her imaginary friend and he lets her think that because he’s afraid to scare her. But he has to confess the truth after he is able to scare a robber away from the house. Jane is even more excited to discover that Leo is a real friend and not just imaginary.


The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson

In this modern classic, a little mouse goes through the forest talking about a terrible creature he has invented….the Gruffalo who “has terrible tusks and claws and teeth and jaws”. He uses the threat of the Gruffalo to scare away all the animals who want to eat him. The mouse is quite confident that “there is no such thing as a Gruffalo”. Imagine Mouse’s surprise when he encounters a real live Gruffalo. But Mouse is crafty and figures out a way to escape from his clutches.


Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson

A witch and her cat are happy flying through the night on a broomstick. But will she be happy giving rides to a dog, a bird and a frog. And what happens when they all meet a dragon?


Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe

This is, in my opinion, one of the funniest short chapter books out there. Narrated by Harold ,the dog, it tells the tale of the strange events that unfold after the Monroe family brings home a slightly odd bunny. Chester, the cat, is convinced that Bunnicula is really an evil vampire. But Harold things he’s crazy and everyone else just thinks the bunny is cute. Is Chester right?


The Witch Family by Eleanor Estes

This was one of my favorite chapter books as a kid. Amy and Clarissa love to tell each other spooky stories about Old Witch. But they decide that she is too mean and wicked so they ban her to live on a glass hill with a Little Witch Girl and a Weeny Witch Baby. But happens when the Witch brings the girls to Glass Hill? A perfect blending of the worlds of reality and fantasy.