poetry of Edgar Allen Poe. The master of the macabre was also a top-notch writer of mysteries, allowing you to gear the reading to your child’s comfort level. On the milder side, there are the detective stories “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” and “The Purloined Letter,” a clever tale of how-dunnit and suspenseful, not scary. For the more adventurous, try his poetry, especially “The Raven,” and for the truly blood-thirsty, read “The Tell-Tale Heart” or “The Pit and The Pendulum.” But only with the lights on.
Hallowe’en Party, by Agatha Christie. A mystery rather than a horror story, this tale features Hercule Poirot looking into the death of a young teenager who may or may not have witnessed a murder – and may or may not have been murdered herself. This is a good story for a pre-teen who wants some chills, without the gore.
The Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling. The boy wizard is an instant classic, a modern phenomenon, and also a rollicking good tale. And the books are cleverly written: Rowling’s tales are geared to readers the same age as Harry, with each book getting progressively more complex and darker. Stick to the first three volumes for pre-teens.
The Homecoming, by Ray Bradbury. This story scares the daylights out of me, and yet there’s no blood, no guts, no screaming in terror. This wonderful short story is about a family of monsters, about not fitting in, and about love in the shadow of death. Heartbreaking and haunting.
Scary Poems for Rotten Kids, by Sean O’Huigin. Don’t let the tongue-in-cheek title or the cartoonish cover fool you: these poems are not for the nightmare-prone. Read them before you share with your pre-teen.
The Kingfisher Book of Scary Poems, chosen by Gillian Clarke. Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Jack Prelutsky, William Shakespeare – beloved poets, all of whom reveal themselves here to be darker and more twisted than your standard Lit class would have you believe. This is a great introduction to some wonderful poets, through the backdoor of some of their more gruesome tales.
Just don’t let on that any of this is literature… or you might really scare the kids away.