A debut Halloween picture book that ends with a tricky treat.
How can families celebrate Halloween without making it all about the candy? Ricker’s book is designed to help transform Halloween by shifting its focus, but it requires parents to be in cahoots with the author, so adult readers should know how the book works before reading it to young ones. Here’s how it goes: One Halloween night, a young boy named Holden dresses as a knight and heads out trick-or-treating. He encounters the Sugar Witch, who needs candy to build her sugar castle. She’s trying to trick-or-treat, but all the homeowners turn her away because she’s too big. She asks Holden to share his candy, knowing he won’t want to. Afraid she’ll take it, he eats himself sick even before he’s done trick-or-treating. Finally, the Sugar Witch offers him a deal, which isn’t explained until the book’s end. He apparently agrees, since she gives him a magic box that he takes home. Just before going to sleep, he dumps all his candy except five pieces into the box. In the morning, he awakens to a treat in the box—a toy knight—and the knowledge that he’s helped the Sugar Witch build her sugar castle. He keeps using the box, and each year, he receives a toy in trade for his candy. On the final page, the narrator invites readers to put their candy in a box or bowl and leave it for the Sugar Witch, saving just a few pieces for themselves. The narrator suggests that the Sugar Witch may visit readers, just as she visited Holden, bringing them treats in exchange for their candy. As a reading experience, the book has its ups and downs. As the appealing digital illustrations, which feature a spooky nighttime sky, help keep the tale moving, the language can be rich and evocative—“clanged and clamored”; “tripped over a twisty twig.” Yet some of the sentences are too long for young readers: The single sentence on the second page of text is 53 words. Parents who are prepared are likely to enjoy their children’s responses, but those who don’t grasp the book’s participatory premise may feel tricked by what children could interpret as a promise of another Halloween treat.
Charming resource for parents looking for a way to allow their kids to celebrate Halloween without becoming indebted to the dentist.