It’s not just free candy and costumes that spur kids to start getting excited about Halloween sometime in mid-January, it’s also the idea that, on this one night, the rules don’t apply and anything can happen. Vancouver author Dan Bar-el (whose 2011 picture book, Pussycat, Pussycat, Where Have You Been?, earned a starred review in these pages) and Idaho illustrator David Huyck have collaborated on a collection containing three comic book–style tales that explore the notion of Oct. 31 as a spooky free-for-all.
In the first story, a hyper young redhead named Giselle badgers her mother into buying her a witch costume. As the result of a broom mix-up, Giselle ends up in the lair of a real witch, who takes the girl on a late-night flight, dispensing hot soup to a host of ghouls. In the second entry, a pair of brothers share a post-trick-or-treat bath, only to discover their tub leads to an underwater kingdom full of deceptive mermaids and giant, tentacled beasts. In the third, a quartet of girls dress up as vampires, and nearly become the victims of actual vampires, at least one of whom is ambivalent about the whole blood-sucking business.
All three stories are lighthearted and not too scary – though the vampire chase in the final story comes closest to delivering a genuine fright, and that tentacled sea monster’s a real bruiser. The pacing sometimes feels a little off, with many of the stories’ beats either appearing too soon or too late, but most young readers will be too busy salivating over the thought of having their own spook-filled Halloween adventures to notice.