BOOKS Spooky Autumn reads

Autumn is the perfect time to cosy up with a good book. For Stephanie Cotela, nothing beats a classic ghost story. Here, she shares her favourite spooky children’s books.

Autumn is here and all the wonderful things that go along with it. There’s nothing like that first taste of pumpkin spice, chunky sweaters, fall foliage and traditional conker games. More than that, it’s the perfect time to cosy up with a cuppa and a good book. A good spooky book. 

When we think of ghost stories, we think of hiding under the blankets, sleeping with the lights on and generally being scared out of our wits. Why, then, would we want our children to read them? It’s simple, ghost stories encourage us to acknowledge a world beyond our own. They show us that not everything can be explained, that strangeness lies beyond what we consider normal. Quite simply, the thrill of a spine-tingling ghost story awakens our senses and makes us feel. 

Each story I’ve chosen explores a different approach to the classic ghost story. 

People want to forget the impossible. It makes their world safer. ~ Neil Gaiman


The Graveyard Book, Author: Neil Gaiman, Illustrator: Chris Riddell, Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

Any decent ghostly children’s book round-up must include The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. In this macabre tale, Nobody Owens is orphaned when his family is killed by a mysterious man named Jack, one of several Jacks, it turns out. Baby “Bod” as he is nicknamed, escapes to the graveyard where he is raised by, well, ghosts. Though he loves his undead family, his longing for life in the real world beckons him. Not only does it have possibly the best opening lines ever written and all the ingredients of a classic, the message is timeless: the dangers lurking in the graveyard, where Nobody Owens was raised, are far less scary than the real world. 



Seven Ghosts, Author: Chris Priestley, Publisher: Barrington Stoke

Would you enter a writing competition if the prize was a private tour of a notoriously haunted house? With a guide relaying tales of former residents who may or may not still roam its corridors? In this edge-of-your-seat page-turner, young protagonist Jake does just that. Each story builds upon the next, creating more and more tension until the final shocking twist. All is not what it seems but not in the way we’ve come to expect. It’s not the presence of ghosts the main character needs to reconcile, but rather, his own journey of self-discovery. 

The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker, Author: Lauren James, Publisher: Walker Books

The notion of an afterlife is comforting, often imagined as a blissful, painless eternity. This story, which takes place in a crumbling, abandoned building, flips that idea on its head by throwing in magical powers, a villainous protagonist, queer desires and a threat against all of humanity. With plenty of twists and turns, multiple POVs and wholly fleshed-out, loveable characters, I’m not sure you can ask for more. But there is more. Harriet wants to get back to the land of the living and she absolutely doesn’t care what she has to do to get there. Ultimately, this is a classic tale of good vs evil, filled with delicious tidbits of spine-tingling horror. 

People think that ghosts only come out at night, or on Halloween, when the world is dark and the walls are thin. But the truth is, ghosts are everywhere. ~ Victoria Schwab


City of Ghosts, Author: Victoria Schwab, Publisher: Scholastic

This tale follows Cass, our 12-year-old protagonist, through the creepy streets of Edinburgh, as she tries, unsuccessfully, to avoid being pulled into the “veil” aka “the other side” by ghosts who want her help, or want her dead. Her best friend, Jacob is a ghost, which brings plenty of witty and heartwarming banter into the story and her parents are ghost hunters, exploring the most haunted places in the city to film a TV documentary. Ultimately, this is a story about conquering your fears, which is a lot easier when you have the support of a trustworthy friend who always has your back.

The Haunting of Aveline Jones, Author: Phil Hickes, Illustrator: Keith Robinson Publisher: Usborne

Aveline is sent to live with her aunt in an old seaside village. The atmosphere is set on the drive into town, when Aveline spots creepy Halloween decorations and mistakes them for real people. She’s immediately on edge, looking over her shoulder and feeling uneasy. Then, in a local used bookshop, she finds the journal of a girl, who went missing without a trace and makes it her mission to find out what happened. This is a completely enthralling mystery/adventure tale and the good news is there’s two more books in the series. 

Words & Pictures would love to hear from you — please share your favourite ghost stories in the comments.

*Header Image: Stephanie Cotela


Stephanie Cotela
is the new Network News & Events Editor for Words & Pictures Magazine. Art historian at large, she’s now busy writing spooky middle grade fiction, picture books about polar bears and YA/Adult crime thrillers. Please feel free to contact her at or find her on Twitter: @stephaniecotela

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