I have never enjoyed going to haunted houses because I am easily frightened by costumed actors paid to scare people. That’s one of many reason I love Michael Fleming’s illustrations for my Halloween counting book, 10 Busy Brooms, out this month from Doubleday. The “bad” critters he depicted look nearly as adorable as the altruistic little witches who rescue one another, making it clear to children that this book is sweet rather than scary.
Thanks also to another talented Michael, Doubleday Assistant Editor Michael Joosten, who worked closely with me to make sure my text and Mr. Fleming’s art fit together seamlessly. An enormous thank-you also goes to Frances Gilbert—Associate Publishing Director of Random House, Golden Books, Doubleday Books for Young Readers—for accepting my manuscript. And major thanks to my agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette for selling it.
I got the idea for this manuscript while thinking about my wholesome trick-or-treating adventures in the small Ohio town where I grew up. No one’s parents ever accompanied them—that would have been humiliating! Preschoolers stayed home and helped to hand out treats. Elementary school kids joined up with older siblings or friends and made the rounds. It was exciting to be out and about at night, unsupervised by adults, and feeling the occasional thrill of fear at seeing a seriously scary goblin I didn’t recognize in costume.
Most children wore simple costumes: old sheet with eye holes cut out for ghosts, and black wigs worn under witch hats. Many kids wore cheap masks from the dime store. A few painted their faces. Many wore fake wax lips or wax teeth that had to be taken out when you said, “trick or treat.” Both the lips and teeth had a sweet taste and could be chewed like gum later in the evening. Older kids carried soap in their pockets to leave their marks on homes of people who were too clueless or cheap to give out treats. Some carried bags of dry corn. Soaping windows and/or throwing corn on porches were the “tricks” if a treat wasn’t given.
None of us liked the sheriff’s prissy daughter, Beverly, and we all hated knocking on the door of their home. However, her family gave out full-size candy bars, so we put away our wax teeth and lips so we could smile politely when her mother opened the door. Getting our candy bars wasn’t a quick transaction, though, because Mrs. B. (full name withheld to protect Beverly’s privacy) always attempted to first guess the identity of each beggar, then demanded that we take off our disguises if she guessed wrong. (Hand over the Hershey already!)
Okay, so how am I going to wind up this trip down memory lane? Hmmmm. How about with this: Trick or treat/smell my feet/give me something good to eat. And, if you get a chance in October, read 10 Busy Brooms to a child who loves Halloween.