Monthly Monday Miam-Miam: Halloween Books to Devour

Pumpkins, pumpkins everywhere

We had been in the USA for less than a year when our first Halloween arrived. With a toddler and a baby at home we hadn’t even thought of Halloween until we couldn’t avoid the decorated front lawns, the store windows and the pumpkin patches all over the Bay Area. At the office, my husband overheard big party plans. On my side I read horrific stories about poisoned candies. We deducted that Halloween was a wild affair, probably not recommended for a family like ours. At that time we lived at the end of a country road, still within walking distance from a small downtown, but away from the more lively Peninsula’s towns. On Halloween night, we agreed to turn the porch lights off to avoid wild visitors 🙂

 

And witches…

Sounds weird and extreme?

We were born and raised in France where Halloween was not celebrated back then.

In France, we celebrate the dead on La Toussaint, a day where people flower cemeteries in memory of their loved one. The chosen potted plants are mums. Years later, while visiting us in California, my mother described my porch as morbid when she saw my beautiful colorful potted chrysanthemums.

Traditions can be quite different from one place to another.

Nowadays Halloween is celebrated in France, but mostly with costumed dance parties and some organized events in big cities such as Paris. Our childish trick or treat doesn’t have its equivalent in France. And pumpkins are not the stars of the season. The French use potiron, fleshier and sweeter fruit than the pumpkin to make soups or even jams, but the pumpkin-flavored month of October, is very American.

One of my kids’ original trick or treat “cauldron”

In memory of our first no-Halloween, a rather old picture book since it was published in 2000 that illustrates how newcomers to a foreign land can fear a cultural event, only because they know nothing about it. The book doesn’t have the same resonance now as more countries celebrate some sort of Halloween, but the story still illustrates how cultural differences can seem scary when discovered.

Shy Mama’s Halloween written by Anne Broyles and illustrated by Leane Morin

A moving story on the impact of a simple holiday on a family newly arrived to the USA. For the four children Halloween seems maybe strange but mostly fun and exciting. For their mama, though, it is a much greater step out into a new world. And as it is always with immigrants, the children become the teachers.

There are countless Halloween-themed children’s picture books. All are adorably spooky and will delight children as young as two.

For the little ones in your life:

Llama, Llama Trick or Treat written and illustrated by Anne Dewdney.

Told with only a few words the story describes little llama’s struggles as he searches for the perfect Halloween costume. Perfect book for the very young children and anyone who loves the other great books in the Series Llama Llama.

Spooky Pookie written and illustrated by Sandra Boynton.

I spotted the hardcover book while in line at Whole Foods. Like little llama, Pookie cannot decide what to wear for Halloween. Very young children will totally understand the piglet’s dilemma. Adorably cute.

Bonaparte Falls Apart written by Margery Cuyler and illustrated by Will Terry.

A French-native couldn’t miss the title 🙂

Although the book is not about Halloween, Bonaparte the skeleton losing its bones on the day before school starts will delight school-aged kids and make a perfect read-aloud story for Halloween night.

More pumpkins

For Teenagers:

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks written by E. Lockhart, one of the biggest names in American contemporary literature for teenagers. The novel has been widely acclaimed upon publication, and won the prestigious Michael Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult literature and was a National Book Award Finalist.

Although the book is not about Halloween the pranks that Frankie, the high school sophomore protagonist, elaborates as a revolt against the school all-male secret society take place on Halloween Day. The novel will satisfy every teen girl who’s tired to be labeled adorable and harmless instead of smart and capable.

Told in the third person, unlike most novels for teens, and from a narrator addressing directly the reader, this is one of the most original books I read recently and I highly recommend it beyond Halloween to empower any teenage girl in your life.

My mini Halloween counter corner

For adults:

Cold Iron. Ghost Stories from the 21st Century.

This slim volume includes a collection of seventeen stories that pay homage to the ghost story tradition, while being very contemporary.

I bought it from Iron Press, the editor based in the UK, when I found out that my talented blogger friend Andrea Stephenson had written one story for this collection.

The Last Bus Home is set on a late night service bus and told by the bus driver. It’s a classic ghost story involving the mysterious disappearance of a young girl, now rooming the exact place where she was last seen.

From her blog, Harvesting Hecate, Andrea writes about the intimate relationship between nature and human beings and how seasons and landscapes influence our creativity and mood in general. In her short story the setting and weather play significant roles too.

Because something, somewhere is always on sale on any given American holiday

Special time of the year calls for special tea

My most favorite moment on Halloween night is to open my door onto costumed children. The youngest ones are of course the most adorable, sometimes led by older siblings, but most often by their parents or adults who watch from a safe distance their little trick-or-treaters pronouncing these simple and yet very strange words to any newcomer to America,

“Trick or treat?”

We are more than a week away from Halloween, so as you wait for candies and other sugary treats, I hope you’ll devour a book or two.

As for me, as you can see through this post’s photos, I want to enjoy every day of the fall,

my most favorite season of all.

 

From my front porch to yours

P.S. Pour mes lecteurs français plus récents j’ai retrouvé ce billet écrit dans notre belle langue à propos de cette fête d’Halloween vécue aux Etats Unis. Si vous fêtez en France cette année amusez-vous bien!

Comments

  1. What a great way to celebrate the upcoming festival Evelyne by giving us so many great ideas for things to read for all ages. I very much appreciate you giving a shout out to my own ghost story! I was also fascinated by your history of Halloween, it must have seemed strange to someone not used to it. We always celebrated it but in quite a quiet way when I was a child – we would make a lantern out of swede as pumpkins weren’t available back then in the UK – I still remember the smell of the swede as the candle inside burnt the inside of the lid.

    • You’re welcome, Andrea. I really enjoyed your story and the others too.
      Halloween was strange that first year, for sure. Then very quickly we got used to the different American holidays. We are not huge Halloween fans and never throw parties on that day, but we always welcome trick-or-treaters with lots of candies and since most Halloween decor is also fall decor and I love fall I definitely use pumpkins to their maximum. This year my bi monthly writing meeting falls on Halloween and one of our members who is a big Halloween fan suggested costumes. So I better find an idea for Tuesday. My husband suggested going as a French woman. Cheap costume but I’m afraid I need to be more creative 🙂

  2. Peggy loves the little tykes as well, Evelyne. Unfortunately, our house is so remote we don’t get any. That doesn’t stop us from carving pumpkins and eating all sorts of pumpkin goodies. (It was scones this morning and pumpkin pie on Saturday.) And our trip to the Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular in Rhode Island was a great way to kick off the season! –Curt

    • It’s harder for people who live more remotely, for sure. But I like the way you and Peggy embrace the season spirit. Pumpkins are quite amazing fruits/vegetables and I also enjoy them a lot. Since I didn’t know about the Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular in Rhode Island I googled it. Wow! This is quite amazing.
      Enjoy the season, Curt and Happy Halloween to you and Peggy.

  3. Such great book recommendations. I haven’t heard of Shy Mama’s Halloween so I’m going to try to find it.
    I’d love to try potiron.

    • This book is really cool, even though it wouldn’t probably be published in 2017, since Halloween is no longer so unknown even for new comers to America.
      Potirons are smaller and fleshier. They are sweeter too and have less seeds. Mostly we use them for soups in France, but some people make jams as well. I ate some at one of my aunts and always found it too sweet for my own taste but the texture is pleasant.
      Thank you for stopping by, Claire.

  4. I love fall, and fall colors. This was a fun read. I had no idea there were so many books on this subject. Not the biggest fan of Halloween, which translates into trying to keep the (in her mind, watchdog) dog quiet and the cats from escaping. We may still go with the lights-out approach.

    • Me too, Dan, I prefer the fall in general to Halloween. But now that my kids are to big to go trick or treat I really enjoy little ones’ visits. I know pets’ owners who are also cautious since animals are creatures of habits. Regardless of celebrating or not it’s still fall, the most gorgeous season of all in New England. So enjoy it to its fullest before winter.

  5. I know most of the children’s books, but the others are new to me.
    I don’t love Halloween, but I looooove fall 😀 Fall is the best! There cannot possibly be a more beautiful fall than the one in our little section of the continent.
    We have a lot more neighborhood kids this year, maybe we’ll actually get some trick-or-treaters. I think my kids are going to parties.

    • I’m a fall person too. I read once that we favor the seaon of our birth. I was born late in the fall, almost winter, so I’m not sure. But what I do know is that I’ve always loved the changing of colors, the crispness of the air, slipping a sweatshirt on after weeks or even months of hot weather. And anything pumpkin!
      Fall in some parts of the US (I’m partial to New England) can be quite stunning. I was unprepared to the beauty when I moved to Massachusetts in the mid 1990s. Never saw such a gorgeous season anywhere else. Enjoy, Joey!

  6. Behind the Story says:

    When we moved to the Philippines, no one there celebrated Halloween. They did, however, celebrate All Saints’ Day (Nov. 1) and All Souls’ Day (Nov. 2). To honor their dead family members, they gathered in the cemetery with candles, food and drink, tables and chairs, guitars and stereos, and partied for most of the night. Since our deceased relatives were buried back home, we couldn’t really take part in the celebration.

    We’re having a gorgeous fall this year. All the colors are stunning. Beauty everywhere I look.

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