Books for Little Nightmare Warriors


My husband has always been mild, gentle, pleasant, and laid-back. For example, when accidentally left behind in a grocery store as a kid, he just waited in the aisles, thinking to himself, “They’ll figure it out and come back for me soon.”

His future wife, on the other hand, was not a particularly easygoing kid.

Had I been left in Lacey’s Grocery Store, I would have been scream-sobbing next to the gallons of Blue Bell, then running through the aisles, begging someone to call the police because I had been abandoned.

This intensity of mine was ever present, but most certainly at bedtime when I was desperately afraid to go to sleep because of The Nightmares. My nightmares today consist mostly of social faux pas, like arriving at my in-law’s Christmas celebration only to realize I forgot to buy presents for anyone or accepting a job only to have to back out because I didn’t think about childcare options or being publicly shamed for forgetting to write a thank you note. When I was a child, though, I was being chased by abominable snowmen or about to be run over by a truck and my legs wouldn’t work.

So I did the only reasonable thing I could do and refused to go to sleep.

Following should probably be a story of how my mother coaxed me to sleep night after night, but parenting is a thankless job, so this is a story about my cool older brother assuaging my childhood fears.

My brother suffered from night terrors, so my dreams must have seemed like small potatoes to him, but nevertheless he sat across from me at the dining room table (no chance of falling asleep there!), took my fears very seriously and suggested a solution to all my problems.

What if he hopped into his bed at the same moment I lay down in mine? Then he would travel to my dreams, meet me there, and take me flying through the world to see beautiful and amazing sights and keep all the nightmares at bay.

Because everything Neill said was absolutely true and he certainly had magical powers (he could travel to the moon at the speed of light, in case you were wondering), I believed him wholeheartedly, and skipped off to bed where I fell asleep quickly, so as not to miss my aerial appointment.

Unless you have a cool drum-playing, light-speed-traveling high-schooler at your disposal, this approach may not work for your child, but you can at least enjoy these read-alouds for little nightmare warriors.

**It’s hard to make a list of “nightmare” books that aren’t at least a little scary. Check out these feel-good books or maybe these if you’re looking for a distraction from the scaries at bedtime**

Everyone needs a Nightlight to guard against Pitch, the Nightmare King.

(And William Joyce is certainly a fantasy king, in my book.)


Full disclosure, I’ve forgotten most of this book. But I love Jessica Meserve’s cheerful illustrations and I’m going to pop this one on our holds list again, because everyone needs a story about learning to be brave when your protector is missing.


Humor is the best armor against fear! 


Speaking of humor, there’s No Such Thing as a boy on top of the bed.


Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen collaborating on childhood fear? YES.


Yarlett’s Dark is not close to as scary as Snicket and Klassen’s, if you’re looking for lighter (and fabulously illustrated) fare.


There’s an Alligator Under My Bed and There’s a Nightmare in My Closet are classics, but couldn’t be left off this list.


Speaking of classics, nothing is more classic than Seuss. And this one apparently glows in the dark!


I’ve mentioned Tiger vs. Nightmare before (it is excellent and warrants mentioning more than once), but fair warning – it is definitely scary. Don’t let the cute tiger fool you.


For your chapter book readers, check out these:

Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King brings Joyce’s brilliance to the big kids.


My son recommends The Last Kids on Earth, but says you should definitely start with book one. I haven’t read these, but if Netflix is investing, it’s probably solid, right?


We just put Nightmares! on hold; it has great reviews and falls solidly in this category.


Join the BFG and watch out for those trogglehumbers!


Happy reading and lovely dreams!

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