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Top 5 gothic tales for kids, selected by Jon Klassen

The writer and illustrator of children's books gives us his pick of gothic tales to spook kids

Gothic illustration by Jon Klassen of a little girl holding a skull

Illustration from Jon Klassen's The Skull. Image: Jon Klassen

Jon Klassen (creator of the modern classic I Want My Hat Back) has just released a truly spooky folktale. The Skull follows a brave little girl and a sentient skull… Read if you dare! Here, Klassen recommends more gothic tales for younger readers…

In a Dark Dark Room by Alvin Schwartz, illustrated by Dirk Zimmer 

The crown jewel of this gothic collection is a little story called ‘The Green Ribbon’. We read it at school visits close to Halloween, and no matter how rowdy the kids are, you can hear a pin drop when you read it. 

The Mansion in the Mist by John Bellairs, illustrated by Edward Gorey 

The old edition of this is one of the handsomest books I’ve ever seen. It’s about a boy who goes to visit an island in Canada and stays in an old house and finds a wooden chest which leads to another shadowy dimension full of druid types. 

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

I would’ve read this in grade school if I had known about it. A girl, her sister, and a cat, live in an otherwise giant empty house in a neighbourhood that steers clear of the place. Maybe Jackson’s best book. 

The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe

Always my favourite Poe, if I had to choose. I like a good revenge story. I hope kids are still reading Poe. I wasn’t that smart and I read him a lot. 

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 

Does this count as a gothic story? It feels like one. I read this over and over again. Again, the hope is that it gets kids into reading whatever else the story was packaged with, but what a great hook. 

Jon Klassen’s The Skull

Jon Klassen’s The Skull is out now (Walker Books, £14.99). You can buy some of these titles from The Big Issue shop on Bookshop.org, which helps to support The Big Issue and independent bookshops.

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