11 monster books for kids of all ages
From silly to spine-chilling, our picks offer something for everyone.
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Get in the spirit of the spooky season by adding some monster books to your reading rotation. The collections in this list include mythical beasts, traditional monsters, cryptozoological creatures, and some real-life creepy critters. They will inspire Halloween costume ideas, enhance story time year ‘round, and inspire both children and adults to see magic and mystery all around them.
1. The Big Book of Monsters: The Creepiest Creatures from Classic Literature by Hal Johnson
This new book wins the prize for creepiest illustrations. My daughter had a nightmare after one look at the cover—then she asked me to read it to her every day for a week. The Big Book of Monsters focuses on scary characters from literature, including the history and lore behind the story. “Beyond the Book” sections offer even deeper background on each creature. Unpack each character with your monster-loving children, then read the original stories they starred in. Recommended for: ages 10 and up
2. The Compendium of Magical Beasts: An Anatomical Study of Cryptozoology's Most Elusive Beings by Veronica Wigberht-Blackwater and Melissa Brinks
Here, (fictional) cryptozoologist Veronica Wigberht-Blackwater and author Melissa Brinks pull together some traditional specimens from creature lore, like werewolves, trolls, vampires, and more. They provide historical context, earnest descriptions, and speculation about the lifestyles and personalities of some of your favorite magical beings. With their fantastic tea-stained scrapbook quality, Lily Selka Jones’ illustrations are the highlight of the book.
Recommended for: ages 13 and up
3. The Faerie Handbook: An Enchanting Compendium of Literature, Lore, Art, Recipes, and Projects by Carolyn Turgeon
Maybe you are thinking “Fairies aren’t monsters!” But are they not mysterious and potentially terrifying? Like other classes of magical creatures, their fear factor depends entirely on whether you believe they are real. The Faerie Handbook is rich with art depicting fairy gatherings and encounters. One of the opening pages shows a 1933 illustration for Goblin Market and Other Poems in which a girl is surrounded by goblins selling fruit. She looks at once afraid and enraptured—capturing the dichotomous lure of fairy folk in our imaginations. Recommended for: ages 13 and up
4. Monsters and Mythical Creatures from around the World by Heather Frigiola
This is the book for sneaking some educational content in with all the fun monster stuff. Frigiola, a cultural anthropologist, takes the unusual approach of arranging these creatures by geography and putting the focus on their cultural context. This type of book begs to have illustrations for each entry. The illustrations that are included—about 100—only make me wish I could see more. Recommended for: ages 13 and up
5. Monsters You Should Know by Emma SanCartier
SanCartier’s creatures are somehow both cute and terrifying. This volume is spare in text but rich in stylized—and sometimes gruesome—illustrations. Though there are only 17 monsters included, they are guaranteed to be ones you and the kids have never seen before. Recommended for: ages 6 and up
6. Draw 62 Magical Creatures and Make Them Cute: Step-by-Step Drawing for Characters and Personality For Artists, Cartoonists, and Doodlers by Heegyum Kim
Now that little heads have been filled with details about their favorite monsters, maybe your artistic kids are inclined to get creative. Illustrator Heegyum Kim’s step-by-step instructions are just the start. The book offers tips, inspiration, and encouragement for taking your cute monsters—and their drawings—to the next level.
7. Papertoy Monsters: 50 Cool Papertoys You Can Make Yourself! by Brian Castleforte
This book is the perfect project combo for your monster-loving aspiring-maker. More than a book, it’s a kit for 50 paper-folding projects, including the back story for each monster creation. Monster parts are perforated and scored for easy folding—all you need is a glue stick and some patience. Besides the 50 bonkers creatures kids can build from this book (Confetti Yet? Nishwyndym? I couldn’t pick a favorite), there are 10 blank “skins” for you to decorate and design your own monsters. Project difficulty ranges from easy to advanced, so even beginners can get started here. Recommended for: ages 9-12
8. Flanimals: A Complete Natural History by Ricky Gervais
This obscure boxed set deserves a little explanation. Flanimals are the creation of Ricky Gervais—yes, that Ricky Gervais. Were it not for the serendipity of used book stores and the peculiar attractions of a 3-year-old child, I would not be aware of these creatures either. They are cute, bizarre, and funny, with enough tongue-in-cheek humor to amuse adults who are begged to read about them over and over. A Complete Natural History includes four volumes: Flanimals, More Flanimals, Flanimals of the Deep, and The Day of the Bletchling.
9. The Utter Zoo: An Alphabet by Edward Gorey
Any creepy book list for kids must include a specimen from the master of bizarre illustration and nonsense prose, Edward Gorey. His 26 entirely invented creatures are as unnerving as all of his other famed characters, from the Gashlycrumb Tinies to the Fantod. In The Utter Zoo, it’s as if Gorey threw disparate syllables and rhyming words at a page and then somehow molded the parts into a fantastical menagerie. Like most of his work, these creatures are both dark and silly at the same time.
10. The Illustrated Bestiary: Guidance and Rituals from 36 Spirited Animals by Maia Toll
With its earthy palette and mystical aesthetic, The Illustrated Bestiary is a feast of animal magic. These are not imaginary beings, they are the common beaver and earthworm. Toll’s collection emphasizes the magical in ordinary creatures. The book includes 36 oracle cards representing each animal.
11. Creatures of the Deep (Real-Life Monsters) by Matthew Rake
Every kid has a little marine biologist inside them. Creatures of the Deep will take them beyond the cutesy sea life they see at the beach and into the depths where real-life monsters rule. Each entry includes vivid photographs, trivia about the creature, and a monster rating based on size, power, strength, aggression, and deadliness. Recommended for: ages 8-12
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