I know that in some places school doesn’t start until after Labor Day, but in Indiana, most schools are already in session, and the rest will be by sometime next week.
For kids, the end of summer vacation can be kind of a bummer, but for kids who love scary stories, there are lots of them set in schools. School isn’t a boring place there; it’s an adventure. A terrifying adventure, yes, but terrifying in a different way than the usual school fears and anxieties. Of course, after some of these school stories, it’s possible that young readers may see their neighborhood school in a more favorable light. Here are a few suggestions for the tween crowd looking for a book for when it’s time for Drop Everything And Read.
Scary School series by Derek the Ghost (Derek Taylor Kent)
According to Rhonda Wilson, who reviewed the first two books for us (we’re waiting on the third) this is a fantastic series. You can visit the Scary School website here
#1 Scary School (reviewed here)
#2 Monsters on the March (reviewed here)
#3 The Northern Frights
Tales from Lovecraft Middle School series by Charles Gilman
This new series for tweens provides a gentle introduction to the world of Lovecraft. H.P. Lovecraft scared the daylights out of me in high school, so double check to make sure you are not handing his original stories over, but this series has cool lenticular cover art, is delightfully creepy, and also has an awesome school librarian in it.
#1 Professor Gargoyle (reviewed here).
#2 Teacher’s Pest (I’m reading this now, and if you are creeped out by bugs, this will give you the willies).
#3 The Slither Sisters
#4 Substitute Creature
Bone Chillers series by Betsy Haynes and others
This out-of-print series, starring the students of Edgar Allan Poe High School, was published between 1994 and 1997, at the peak of the Goosebumps craze. It was good enough to inspire its own television show. You can probably find it used, if your library doesn’t still have it. As I mentioned in a previous post, though, libraries tend to hang on to books until a really ruthless weeder comes along, or the book is completely worn out. I know Bone Chillers was published in a hardcover library edition (probably a prebound version) because I had a few on the shelves when I was a school librarian.S
#1 Beware the Shopping Mall by Betsy Haynes
#2 Little Pet Shop of Horrors by Betsy Haynes
#3 Back to School by Betsy Haynes
#4 Frankenturkey by Betsy Haynes
#5 Strange Brew by Betsy Haynes
#6 Teacher Creature by Betsy Haynes
#7 Frankenturkey II by Betsy Haynes
#8 Welcome to Alien Inn by Betsy Haynes
#9 Attack of the Killer Ants by Betsy Haynes
#10 Slime Time by Betsy Haynes
#11 Toilet Terror by Betsy Haynes
#12 Night of the Living Clay by David Bergantino
#13 The Thing Under the Bed by Daniel Ehrenhaft
#14 A Terminal Case of the Uglies by David Bergantino
#15 Tiki Doll of Doom by Michael Burgan
#16 The Queen of the Gargoyles by Gene Hult
#17 Why I Quit the Baby-Sitters Club by Betsy Haynes
#18 Blowtorch@Psycho.Com by Sherry Shahan
#19 The Night Squawker by Dahlia Kosinski
#20 Scare Bear by Gene Hult
#21 The Dog Ate My Homework by Betsy Haynes
#22 Killer Clown of Kings County by Daniel Ehrenhaft
#23 Romeo and Ghouliette by Ryan Chipman
School of Fear series by Gitty Daneshveri
Four middle-school aged kids with severe phobias are sent to an exclusive and isolated school that promises to help them get past their fears. I have seen adult reviewers who have taken this premise quite seriously and have been very upset by its content. To be clear, these books are not intended as a mockery of the truly phobic, nor are they inspiring tales of therapeutic success– rather, they are a creepy, quirky, and sometimes funny, take on the “boarding school for last-chance students” story.
#1 School of Fear
#2 Class Is Not Dismissed!
#3 The Final Exam
Down a Dark Hall by Lois Duncan (reviewed here)
Speaking of boarding schools, it’s hard to get creepier than with this tale of an exclusive school for the “gifted”, in a creepy old house in an isolated location and no way to contact anyone in the outside world, inhabited by artistically talented ghosts who possess the students to exercise their creative genius.
Splurch Academy for Disruptive Boys series by Julie Gardner Berry and Sally Gardner
Yet another “boarding school for last-chance students” story, this time heavily illustrated and leaning on the gross-out factor. In this series, the hard cases that public schools haven’t been able to reach are entrusted to the care of a fascinating group of educators, all of whom are monsters.
#1 The Rat Brain Fiasco (reviewed here)
#2 Curse of the Bizarro Beetle (reviewed here)
#3 The Colossal Fossil Freakout
#4 The Trouble With Squids
Ivy and Bean and the Ghost That Had to Go by Annie Barrows
This title in the Ivy and Bean series is mind-bending. Ivy and Bean are best friends, on totally opposite ends of the personality spectrum. Ivy is shy and imaginative, while Bean is always ready for action. In this book, Ivy claims to have seen a ghost in the girls’ bathroom at school. Bean enthusiastically helps her spread the story until the two of them manage to terrify their entire class out of using the bathroom. Naturally, an exorcism is in order. Middle schoolers will find it too young, but fourth graders can still enjoy it.
The Dreadful Future of Blossom Culp by Richard Peck
This is not my favorite of the Blossom Culp books (that would be Ghosts I Have Been) but it’s a great school story, in a totally dated kind of way. In it, Blossom, who is psychic, and who has been convinced to do fortunetelling in her school’s haunted house, time travels to the future. Well, her future. Her future would be in the present time, which in this case was the time that the book was written. In the 1980’s. And she goes to school with the kid who has promised to help her get back home. The entire thing is a blast from the past now, but it’s still fun.
Bunnicula Meets Edgar Allan Crow by James Howe
Bunnicula, the vampire rabbit who is a threat to vegetables everywhere, has really evolved, developing spinoff series, easy readers, and much more. Bunnicula Meets Edgar Allan Crow returns us to the world of Chester, Howie, Harold, and the Monroe family. In this book, the Monroes are playing host to M.T. Graves, the author of the FleshCrawlers series, who is there for a school visit. Graves brings along his pet, a strange, silent bird named Edgar Allan Crow. As usual, mystery, suspense, and humor combine to create another excellent Bunnicula story.
Matilda by Roald Dahl
Maybe you don’t think of Matilda as a scary book . But although it’s sometimes hard to remember how scary Roald Dahl actually is, he touches on some very dark themes and very extreme plotlines in his books. It’s an understatement to say that Miss Trunchbull, the principal of Matilda’s school, is memorable, in the worst way possible.
Infestation by Tim Bradley
And now, one last “boarding school for last-chance students” story, which is also an homage to monster movies. Imagine Louis Sachar’s Holes, but with an insect invasion.
As always, look these books over to make sure they’re right for you (or your child) since they’re all over the spectrum. Some of them are good for nine year olds, and a little young for middle schoolers: others will be more appropriate for kids on the upper end of the age range. Good luck getting back into the school routine, and may your own school be refreshingly free of insects, ghosts, monsters, and ominous black birds.