Children's Horror

What is Children's Horror?

This subgenre encapsulates horror books written for younger audiences. Horror isn't reserved for just adults. A notable example would be the short story collection: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Newer works in this genre feel watered-down compared to this book and a handful of others. The artwork was enough to nearly give kids PTSD, but the stories too seem like they were written by Clive Barker. These books also include classic horror novels that are abridged with easy to read type and artwork so they can be marketed towards children. A children's version of Bram Stoker's Dracula is one example.   


Characteristics of Children's Horror

Level of Characterization
Moderate. Usually follows young adult or child characters, but they often must make very adult decisions and take actions to survive that test their sanity and moral compass. 

Level of Plot Complexity
Moderate. More imaginative and creative than complex.

Level of Supernatural
Varies. These books usually either rely heavily on supernatural elements or not at all.

Level of Scary
Moderate-High. Some children's books continue to scare adults.

Level of Violence 
Moderate. Isn't graphic or Splatterpunk level gory.

Typical Setting
Varies. Ranges from alternate universes to deserted islands, etc. Almost anywhere that you can think of.

Related Horror Sub-Genres

The villains could be closely related to the ones in the Creepy Kids subgenre. '


Some of the books in this subgenre rely heavily on Supernatural elements.


Some of the children horror books overlap heavily with the Dark Fantasy subgenre.

Children's Horror Isn’t For You If You Dislike

Books without strong adult overtones--tone, themes, strong sexuality, extreme violence, etc.


    1. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark,Alvin Schwartz. Folk tales and urban legends, adapted for kids. Contains artwork that still gives me chills.

    2. Where The Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak. A magical forest and sea grow in Max's room, carrying him to an island of his imagination, run by savage little beasts who crown Max king.

    3. Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ray Bradbury. A carnival rolls into town. Cooger & Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show promises adventure and excitement. Soon townspeople are under the lure of the carnival owner, Mr. Dark, who bears a tattoo for each person he has mysteriously compelled. 

    4. Lord of the Flies, William Golding. A plane carrying a group of schoolboys wrecks on an island during a nuclear war evacuation. Eventually the civilized manner between them breaks down and disorder occurs. 

    5. The Westing Game, Ellen Raskin. A millionaire passes away, leaving behind sixteen potential heirs and a series of clues leading eight teams of two on a chase to collect his inheritance.

    6. The Witches, Roald Dahl. A boy and his grandmother travel to a hotel only to discover that it is the site of a convention of witches.

    7. Remember Me, Christopher Pike. Shari Cooper goes to a party and wakes up dead and she isn't going anywhere until she solves her murder.

    8. Grimm's Fairy Tales, The Brothers Grimm. A collection of classic stories that were watered down in Walt Disney's movies.

    9. The Dollhouse Murders, Betty Ren Wright. Amy discovers an antique dollhouse in the attic, an exact miniature replica of her aunt's spooky old house. At night, the dolls appear to move on their own, recreating a gruesome crime that once took place in the house.

    10. Coraline, Neil Gaiman. Coraline discovers a door that leads to another world similar to her own. She must fight to save herself and return to her own world.  

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