Whether or not you believe in ghosts, stories that feature these ethereal characters are a creepy delight for readers of all ages. These ten books, selected from past Cybils nominees/finalists/winners, highlight the best tales about ghosts. Some of the ghosts are friends, others are foes; some stories are pretty funny while others are downright terrifying. There’s something for every reader! Just remember to leave the lights on…
–Emily Andrus, Literary Hoots
A Ghost in the House by Ammi-Joan Paquette, illustrated by Adam Record (Picture Book 2013 Nominee)
When a little ghost goes slip-sliding down the hallway, he suddenly hears…a groan! It’s a mummy! There’s a surprise at every turn—another adorably ghoulish friend to add to the count. But you’ll never guess who is the scariest creature in the house… Part counting book, part bedtime tale, this perfectly creepy ghost story with its rhyming text is just right for the littlest readers.
Leo: A Ghost Story by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Christian Robinson (Picture Book 2015 Nominee)
Most people can’t see Leo; he’s a ghost. But then he meets Jane, who has tremendous imagination and an open position for a brave knight. And so begins a fast friendship. With simple illustrations in blue, the melancholy or joyous emotions of Leo are easily conveyed in this Casper-the-friendly-ghost type of story. Perfect for readers who enjoy a good friendship (with just a little bit of scare).
Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Peter Brown (Picture Book 2012 Finalist)
Jasper Rabbit loves eating the carrots in Crackenhopper Field, until the day he notices the creepy carrots. They follow him everywhere, yet no one else seems to see them! How will he ever escape their haunting?! The vivid noir-style illustrations, punctuated with pops of orange, captivates and horrifies any reader who dares open its pages. This creepy (and yes, hilarious) story of a gluttonous bunny has just enough scare to appease the youngest ghost-story readers.
Home Sweet Horror by James Preller (Early Chapter Book 2013 Winner)
Dealing with the grief of losing his mother, Liam and his family move to a new—decidedly creepier—house. Dangerously creepy, in fact, especially after a slumber party gone wrong brings the hauntings of none other than Bloody Mary! An emotional plot and vivid scratchboard art eerily drive this ghost story, delivering, on the whole, a fantastic introduction into horror stories for the thrill-seeking beginning reader.
Greenglass House by Kate Milford (Middle-Grade 2014 Finalist)
Growing up in an inn run by his parents, Milo’s life is generally predictable. But one snowy day right before Christmas brings unexpected visitor after visitor after visitor, each with some unknown ulterior motive for staying at the inn—something that will change Milo’s world forever. This mystery novel is one big puzzle with a touch of ghostly twist and strong emotional backbone. It’s perfect for readers who aren’t looking for a big scare in their mysterious ghost stories.
The Swallow: A Ghost Story by Charis Cotter (Middle-Grade 2014 Finalist)
Both feeling alone and isolated, two girls build a friendship through a shared attic wall to escape their respective families. But while Polly is down-to-earth, Rose is down-right…ghostly. And who is this third girl, intent on hurting Polly and her family? Part mystery and party ghost story, this novel plays big into the emotions of its characters in a poignant way. Full of twists, scares, and love shared between friend and family, it’s a beautifully written story.
Lockwood & Co.: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud (Middle-Grade 2013 Winner)
London is plagued with ghosts that haunt with intent to kill, and only children have the ability to sense exactly where they are—and therefore, eradicate them. Lucy, with her ability to hear ghosts, enlists with the Psychic Investigation Agency of Lockwood & Co., whose team is set to face the most haunted building in England—and hopefully survive. A truly terrifying tale that will make the reader want to read with the lights on, the adventure, mystery, and touches of humor make this horror novel a delightfully scary read.
Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks (YA Graphic Novel 2012 Winner)
Maggie McKay has enjoyed her childhood homeschooling with her mother, but now she must face public high school with her brothers, all on her own. If that wasn’t hard enough, she’s determined to solve the mystery of the melancholy ghost who follows her everywhere. Black and white illustrations add to the bleak interplays and light/dark themes. This coming-of-age tale is rich with emotion, humor, tenderness, and just the right amount of spook.
The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma (Young Adult 2015 Winner)
On the outside there’s Violet, an eighteen-year-old ballerina on her way to Julliard but haunted by a looming threat. On the inside, within the walls of a girls’ juvenile detention center, there’s Amber, who can’t even remember freedom. One alive and one dead, these two girls voice an edgy narrative laden with themes of betrayal, consequences, and loss. This twisty tale is fit for anyone looking for a truly psychological thriller.
Slasher Girls and Monster Boys by April Genevieve Tucholke (Young Adult 2015 Finalist)
Why read just one ghost story? This collection of short horror stories, each inspired by some classic pop culture tale, has a little something for everyone. There is a range of terror to be had—from the subtly creepy to the downright horrifying—but each story is certainly well done. There’s something for any reader looking for a thrill.