Scary chapter books for kids

3 very imaginative but scary chapter books all kids must read

Reading “scary” books with your children allows them to confront things in the safety of your arms. Many frightening children’s books are designed to confront emotions and situations that many children experience in a fun and imaginary way. But don’t just limit your child to picture books. As your child grows, use your child’s longer attention span and memory to explore longer books chapter by chapter.

Where the Wild Things Are

This classic children’s book is still a favorite today, and for good reason. In this book, Max, who wears his wolf suit all day, gets into one kind of mischief and another. Finally, after yelling at his mother, he is sent to his room. There, Max is transported to a land of terrifying monsters. After he conquers them, he realizes that he misses home, and goes back to find that his mother has left his dinner waiting for him.

This book explores more than just monsters. In a very kid-friendly way, Where the Wild Things Are explores the evolution of the temper tantrum. In the beginning, Max is playing, albeit rambunctiously, but he is unhappy. When he is sent to his room, Max is even more angry and the sun is clearly seen in the blue sky. As the forest grows in his room, Max pretends not to care, but his glee grows as his home becomes unrecognizable and he finds himself in the wild lands. As he travels through the land, dealing with the monsters that he meets, he regains the pride he lost when sent to his room. However, once he becomes king, he realizes it is not what he had hoped. So, he heads home, where he finds that his mother had not forgotten about him.

The pictures reinforce the story in a very unique way. In the beginning, the illustrations are fairly small, with a wide border. This shows how small Max feels in comparison to his own emotions. As the story progresses, the pictures, and Max’s temper, grow. By the time the ocean tumbled by, the picture has spilled over the gutter, or center of the book and onto the facing page. When the wild rumpus starts, Max’s temper has reached its limit and the pictures show it. The illustrations cover both pages, leaving no room for words. But as Max’s temper begins to ebb, the words return with a vengeance. Finally, Max returns to his room and his picture fits the page perfectly. He is no longer too big, or too small for his feelings.

The Monster at the End of This Book

Still a favorite of many adults, this simple book uses Grover to explore anticipatory anxiety. This is a form of anxiety that all of us, child and adult alike, experience from time to time. Whether we are worried about a shot, how we will do on a test, or what we will do when we retire. In this slim volume, Grover, the lovable furry monster from Sesame Street, reads the title of the book and is terrified of the monster that will be at the end. He uses a variety of strategies to prevent the reader from turning the page and reaching the end of the book. However, when the reader, and Grover, reach the end, the monster turns out to be Grover himself.

This book is considered metaphysical. This is a big word that just means that the reader becomes an active participant in the book. The main character, Grover, talks directly to the reader. He begs, pleads and threatens you and your child not to turn the page of the book. This puts your child in a place of power, a sensation that is rare for a preschooler. Grover reinforces this sense of power as he uses lumber and bricks to try to prevent the child from turning the page. When your child succeeds, Grover admires your child’s strength. This can be a great way to talk to your child about fear, especially fear of the future.


Possibly one of the most frightening children’s books written, Coraline explores that child’s conflicting need for parental attention and growing independence.

Split into a scary thirteen chapters, the book follows Coraline as she deals with her family’s move to a big old house. In the beginning, Coraline is miserable. Her parents are too busy to do anything with her. The other people living in the house call her Caroline instead of Coraline. One rainy day when she felt very alone, Coraline discovers a small door that opens onto a brick wall. But one day, when Coraline was feeling particularly bored and unappreciated, Coraline opens the little door and finds a world almost exactly like her own with parents and neighbors that are almost exactly like her own except they are very pale and have shiny black buttons for eyes. They also make it clear that their lives revolve around Coraline and offer her delight after delight. All is wonderful until the “Other Mother” asks Coraline to stay in the other world forever. To do so, the other Mother must sew buttons onto Coraline’s eyes. Coraline refuses and goes back to her real home, only to discover that her parents are missing. When she goes back to rescue her parents, she meets three ghost children that tell their own stories. Finally, Coraline tricks the Other Mother into releasing her and her parents and escapes back to her own world. When she awakens in her own home, her parents have no memory of their capture and only Coraline knows the truth.

The balance between needing others and being self-reliant is something that everyone struggles with. But that struggle is never more pronounced than in childhood. From their point of view, what a child can do such as put on their own clothes or pour a bowl of cereal, is in direct contrast to what they should not do, such as choose their own clothes or “cook” lunch. Not only that, but expectations are constantly changing for the child as he or she matures. As parents, it makes perfect sense, but for children, it can be terribly confusing. Book such as Coraline give children “power” over supernatural events that stand in for emotion, while showing the child’s acceptance of parental limits.

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