What to Read Next: Scary Story Edition
One of the most popular genre requests in my library has always been for a scary story. This isn’t one of my favorite genres, so I do struggle a bit. But I have learned to keep my eyes out on titles that are… well… scary. With comics, I didn’t often have that request for more like it, until I ordered Emily Carroll’s Through the Woods. And while this isn’t the most popular title in my collection, I’d say it’s one of my oft requested: “Do you have more like it?” titles.
Through the Woods
By Emily Carroll
Margaret K. McElderry Books
Grade 9 and Up
The book opens with an introduction about a boy who reads, but is afraid of the dark. Then he shares the stories that have made him afraid. Each story will leave readers with chills and dread. The lush artwork only adds to the fear. The bright vibrant colors, surrounded by thick black outlining for the panels, paired with a frenzied font builds the nightmarish feel of the book. The whole design of the book has a frantic look, again to build a feeling of dread. Think Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark in comic form.
Baba Yaga’s Assistant
By Marika McCoola and Emily Carroll
Grades 5 and 6
After students ask me for another one like Into the Woods, I naturally go to a book by the same artist, although this one has a different look. Upset by her father’s engagement, Masha runs away and answers an ad to be Baba Yaga’s assistant. While Through the Woods, has a restricted palette, this book uses vibrant colors to depict the eerie woods in which Baba Yaga lives. This isn’t nearly as scary as Into the Woods, but the artwork has a creepy vibe of its own.
By Susan Kim, Laurence Klavan, and Faith Erin Hicks
This book has been around for a while, but it’s a good read and worth pulling down from the shelf. Something creepy is happening at Camp Fielding. Jenna and Lucas, both misfits, bond over the lousy food at camp. That bond helps them notice that something is amiss in camp. The pitch perfect combination of coloring, artwork, and text create a chilling atmosphere as they uncover the truth of what really happens at Camp Fielding.
The Graveyard Books
By Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell
Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book is the Newbery Award winning title about a boy who is raised in a graveyard after he escapes a murderer who kills his entire family. I never really found the book all that scary until I read the first volume of the graphic novel adaptation. Now that gave me the creeps!
By Pam Smy
Roaring Brook Press
This comics/prose hybrid tells two stories that intertwine for a creeptastic tale. Mary Baines’ diary tells the story of her suffering at the hands of a fellow girl at the Thornhill Institute for Children. As the orphanage closes its doors forever, most of the children are placed in other homes, but Mary is left with the girl who tortured her the most—and she seeks revenge. More than 30 years later Ella, whose story is told in eerie black and white drawings, looks out her window and sees the dilapidated orphanage. She sneaks in and discovers Mary’s diary. She leaves Mary a note and starts to interact with Mary’s ghost. This hair-raising tale will thrill middle-grade readers looking for a good scare.
Cast No Shadow
By Nick Tapalansky & Anissa Espinosa
Greg has never had a shadow. It’s never bothered him, but it has always set him apart. Since his mother’s death, his father has found a new love, which has been hard on Greg. To get away from his father’s bride-to-be, he visits the old house on the outskirts of town and meets a ghost only he can see. But then his shadow comes and targets all the people that Greg is mad at. Creepy black, white and grey artwork lend an eerie mood that is also softened by the romantic storyline between Greg and his ghost friend.
By Brosgol, Vera
Anya, a Russian immigrant teen, struggles with fitting in at school, but everything changes when she falls to the bottom of a well. Anya’s trapped for two days with a few bits of food and a ghost for company. When she is rescued, unbeknownst to her, the ghost’s finger bone ends up in her bag, which enables Emily, the ghost, to come out of the well too, altering Anya’s life forever. As Emily uses her ghostly abilities to help Anya do well in school, fit in, and even offer some pep talks, she grows stronger. As she grows stronger, Anya realizes that Emily hasn’t been entirely truthful to her. And that’s where the scary ghost story begins! Drawn in black, white, and grey ink, the clear, crisp images lend to the frightening and spine-chilling story. This has been a constant hit in my library.
About Esther Keller
Esther Keller is the librarian at JHS 278, Marine Park in Brooklyn, NY. There she started the library's first graphic novel collection and strongly advocated for using comics in the classroom. She also curates the Graphic Novel collection for the NYC DOE Citywide Digital Library. She started her career at the Brooklyn Public Library and later jumped ship to the school system so she could have summer vacation and a job that would align with a growing family's schedule. On the side, she is a mother of 4 and regularly reviews for SLJ and School Library Connection (formerly LMC). In her past life, she served on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee where she solidified her love and dedication to comics.
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