Topic: Reading for pleasure
Year Group: Upper KS2 (8-11)
Synopsis: Appropriate horror fiction and non-fiction for KS2 readers is often requested but tricky to identify. Here West Sussex Schools Library Service recommend scary reads for the more discerning KS2 horror fan in a bid to inspire more reading for pleasure.
West Sussex SLS
Winter is the season for ghosts, ghouls and things that go bump in the night! For some of us, these are year-round passions but, traditionally, as the clocks wind back and the nights draw in, readers turn towards the Gothic and mysterious. Although Halloween is traditionally seen as the beginning of the spooky season, ghost stories are historically associated with the festive period as Victorian families shared stories around the fire and paused to remember loved ones from Christmases past.
Children are no exception to this longing for the spooky and supernatural, but it can often be difficult to find books that are pitched at the right age level. Of course some people may argue that primary-aged children are too young for such stories, however, there is more to horror fiction than simply an objective to scare.
Horror writing, particularly ghost stories, are often morality tales. They may a mirror that reflects the extremes of human behaviour, cautioning us to consider carefully the choices we may face.
Such tales are also some of our earliest introductions to death, grief and faith in all its forms. It is also worth noting that there is a long tradition of children’s authors, such as E. Nesbit and Roald Dahl, successfully writing adult ghost stories, many of which are now considered classics of the genre.
Horror fiction is rich in language, vocabulary and writing formats. Tales of the supernatural are not easy to write because the big reveal or final scare has to work well, like a punchline to a joke. The writing is often sparse, inferring terror rather than creating it, so each word is carefully selected, and every sentence precisely constructed for maximum effect. From epistolary and diary writing to graphic novels and short stories, there are many text formats to engage young readers, enhance guided reading and inspire creative writing.
Listed below are some examples of new and classic horror fiction and non-fiction. These won’t be for every child, but should satisfy the interest of the more discerning KS2 horror fan…
The Spook’s Apprentice
by Joseph Delaney
Thomas Ward is the seventh son of a seventh son, apprenticed to the local Spook, John Gregory, and tasked with protecting the local community from witches, demons and boggarts.
The series, set in a dark medievalist fantasy Britain, is drawn from the folklore and legends of Lancashire and Yorkshire, including the Pendle Witch trials.
This is the first book in the Wardstone Chronicles, and a perfect transition read for Y6 horror fans looking for a series to carry them through to secondary school. The books become decidedly darker as the series progresses, but the first in the series is a wonderfully terrifying introduction to this world for readers aged 10+.
The Haunting of Aveline Jones
by Phil Hickes
A chilling ghost story set in a small Cornish fishing village. Sent to stay with her aunt for October half-term, Aveline quickly discovers there is little to entertain her except for a small bookshop close to the harbour. Soon, Aveline finds herself at the centre of a decades long mystery involving the ghost of a woman who supposedly drowned at sea.
This is an atmospheric and well-written story with a brave and resourceful main character that most fans of the paranormal will relate to. The two sequels, centred around stone circles and the fae, are equally entertaining.
by Jennifer Killick
Not your average Y6 residential trip! When Lance and his class arrive at Crater Lake activity centre, little does he know that they will soon be in a battle for survival against alien creatures that have the ability to control the thoughts and actions of others.
This is sci-fi alien thriller from an author that is earning a reputation for children’s horror with a twist of dry humour. If readers enjoy this, and its sequel, try Dread Wood and Fear Ground, also by Jennifer Killick, for Y6 transition titles.
The Inkberg Enigma
by Jonathan King
Miro and Zia live in a tiny fishing village on the American coast. Miro loves nothing more than curling up with a good book whereas Zia is an investigative journalist-in-waiting, always looking for the next story. When they discover that the strange activities at the fishing works are somehow linked to an ill-fated Antarctic expedition, the two friends are led into a world of ancient gods, sea creatures and conspiracy.
A wonderfully atmospheric Lovecraftian graphic novel full of Goonies-style adventure. The graphic novel format lends itself well to reluctant readers and those just dipping their toe into the horror genre.
The Beast and the Bethany
by Jack Meggitt-Phillips
Ebenezer Tweezer, 511 years old, is kept youthful by the special potions produced by the beast he keeps in his attic. This beast has an insatiable appetite, and nothing tastes more delicious than a nice juicy child! But, when Ebenezer presents the precocious Bethany, the Beast may find that it has bitten off more than it can chew…
This is a thrilling, spine-chilling story of despicable characters and daring deeds, with echoes of Oscar Wilde and Lemony Snicket, for readers aged 9+.
No Place for Monsters
by Kory Merritt
In the town of Cowslip Grove, children are being erased from existence in the middle of the night by the terrifying Mr Frost. All that precedes each child’s disappearance in the faint whistling of familiar tune.
The highly illustrated format of this chapter book provides additional scares for the reader, particularly during the first chapter where the monochrome pictures are used to full effect. Although funny in places, this story is an unsettling read and will be of particular interest to children aged 8+ who enjoy reading about cryptozoology and urban exploration.
Christmas Dinner of Souls
by Ross Montgomery
After breaking a window at Soul’s College, Lewis is ordered to be a waiter at the Christmas Eve dinner hosted by the sinister Dean. As the guests arrive, Lewis discovers that he is privy to an old festive custom where diners compete to tell the most spine-chilling and ghoulish story in the hope of winning a diabolical prize.
Ross Montgomery’s festive anthology exemplifies why the ghost story lends itself so well to the short story format. With stories that pay homage to classic writers including M. R. James and W.W. Jacobs, this is a wonderfully atmospheric collection with an unexpected twist.
The Big Book of Mysteries
by Tom Adams
Illustrated by Yas Imamura
Truth is stranger than fiction, right? Well, that’s exactly what makes this beautifully illustrated reference book such a spine-tingler. Covering all aspects of the paranormal and supernatural, this non-fiction guide introduces readers to subjects as wide-ranging as alien abductions, unexplained natural phenomena, famous hauntings, and lost treasures. The text is accessible and engaging with plenty to inspire writing and discussion.