Welp, Labor Day is over, so ofc it’s time to turn the consumerist attention to Halloween! (I’m mostly kidding, but also resigned to the world we live in.)
Halloween is such a weird holiday, IMO, less so in its origins than in the way it’s evolved over the years as an American (and associated) celebration. I’m one of those earnest weirdos whose favorite holiday is Thanksgiving, tho far, far less as a celebration of colonial survival at the expense of the indigenous than as a holiday focused on gratitude. While I enjoy the dressing up shenanigans of Halloween, I’ve found that as I get older, I 100% prefer the silly aspects of the holiday to the spooky, perhaps because real life is already scary enough without having to add supernatural fears into the mix.
However, if you have not yet been ground down by mundanity into eschewing the delight of a fearful thrill, then this book is definitely for you! Trick Or Treat, Alistair Gray is about a boy who loves Halloween but is taken aback by how cutesy it has become, with most of the other kids at school using the occasion as a time to dress up as princesses and cowboys instead of the monsters he longs to see. The school’s Halloween Ball is one of harvest treats and fall decor, greatly disappointing the mummy-rag-clad boy. Eschewing the safety of the school gym, he heads out into the night, looking for terror… and ultimately finding it.
Given that this is a kid’s book, it’s not too, too scary — though Timea Gazdag’s illustrations are wonderfully atmospheric and spooky, painted throughout in dark, lush colors reminiscent of gouache. And while Ali does go running out into the dark to find something frightful, what he gets is an age-appropriate explanation for why Halloween is the way it is and why he shouldn’t be such a weirdo about letting people celebrate it the way they want to.
Presented in rhyming meter by Lindy Ryan, the story is short but clever, and gentle about reminding kids not to gatekeep but to instead embrace joy while still keeping tradition and history in mind. It strikes a good balance between scary and fun, and is perfect for people who love Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. In fact, this picture book has been turned into an animated short as well, in another family-friendly addition to media you can screen for the upcoming holiday.
My 11 year-old and I read this together. As we’re not as goth as Ali is, we both felt the story was pretty good if not in our personal wheelhouses. We both really enjoyed the art tho, and agree that as far as kid’s Halloween books go, this is definitely above average. We’re just not the target audience that will appreciate this as more than an interesting, if slight read come spooky season. Halloween lovers should absolutely not pass this up tho!
Trick Or Treat, Alistair Gray by Lindy Ryan & Tímea Gazdag was published today September 6 2022 by Black Spot Books and is available from all good booksellers, including