The Halloween Kid: Yee-Ha-lloween!
It’s certainly no secret by now that I’m a big fan of Halloween. And it isn’t only because I like spooky things - not by a long shot. I’m a big fan of the innocent, family-friendly version of the holiday as well. Dressing up in costumes, going trick-or-treating, and carving jack-o-lanterns - everything that celebrates the Halloween spirit.
Not only is Halloween one gigantic dress-up, role-playing party - a true champion of childhood imagination - but it also has the added benefit of being a little scary as well. For me it’s certainly the holiday that awakens the most childhood nostalgia.
I don’t know about you, but nostalgia for me is very often all tied up with some sort of art and entertainment - books, movies, TV shows, or games that had a big impression on me. I get the warm and fuzzies when I think about Christmas and watching The Muppets’ Christmas Carol or this one particular copy of Twas the Night Before Christmas that my mother would read. When it’s time for hunting eggs I always think about A Family Circus Easter.
And basically Halloween has too many examples to count - The Nightmare Before Christmas, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, Garfield’s Halloween Adventure, A Disney Halloween, Hocus Pocus, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow - the list could really go on forever.
What those works of art do well is wrap up the emotions of the holiday - and then they allow families to come together to enjoy them and get into the spirit. If they do their job well enough, not only do they help us celebrate the feelings of the holiday, but they can become a part of the holiday itself. A Christmas Story playing on repeat all of Christmas Day is simply part of the deal now.
As a father, the nostalgia I feel for childhood holidays reminds me of how special I want childhood to be for my own kids. For that reason it’s a big deal for me when a new piece of art celebrates an unabashed love for a holiday, and does it well. To be honest, there just aren’t very many new books or shows that really live up to the older love letters to holidays.
We found the picture book The Halloween Kid two years ago, and it does a remarkably good job celebrating Halloween. My son was three years old when we found it, and he would just laugh and laugh when I read it out loud.
He wanted to hear it again and again that first Halloween. And because of how much we have enjoyed it together, I have no doubt this is a book that my children will see when they’re thirty and be washed over by waves of childhood Halloween nostalgia.
Not only did Rhode Montijo create a book championing Halloween, he created a literal Halloween champion - the defender of the holiday - the Halloween Kid. As the story points out:
“You see, the Halloween Kid loved him some Halloween and he would wrangle those who tried to ruin it. He’d swoop down on his trusty steed and sweep up creeps.”
The reason my son laughed out loud so much were the consecutive pages of the Halloween Kid wrangling up those creeps - mummies, vampires, werewolves - and using his spot-on, alliterative Wild West vernacular. The real secret is to master your own cowboy voice as you read these lines and the rest of the book out loud:
“That’s a wrap, you T.P.-tossin’ terrors!”
“…just one more step, you woolly williker.”
And, best of all (based off of my son’s response)…
There’s really a great Halloween storyline here too. The Halloween Kid is used to sweepin’ up all the Halloween creeps, but one year the dangerous Goodie Goblins show up and start stealing everybody’s candy. Worst of all, some folks “start handin’ out things that wasn’t even candy.” And other folks “started talkin’ ‘bout cancelin’ Halloween for good.” Well this certainly sounds like a job for the Halloween Kid if there ever was one.
The art and the theme of The Halloween Kid remind me of one of my very favorite video games - Costume Quest (another spectacular love letter to Halloween). In the game, children go trick-or-treating, but end up having to rescue one of their sisters from goblins. These children also have superpowers to use in battle that change depending on what costume they are wearing. The Halloween Kid gives me a very similar feeling all around - which is a very good thing.
Like the children in Costume Quest, the Halloween Kid is very clearly a kid in a costume, complete with a riding horse on a stick, but he’s a real hero. He’s the official protector of Halloween - and the line between make-believe and reality is very fuzzy, as you can see when his horse on a stick runs back to town by himself to fetch help.
This allows kids to use their imagination like they would for any superhero story, but it also seems to make it especially easy for them to relate to the story and imagine themselves as the Halloween Kid. Just toss on a cowboy hat and a lone ranger mask and grab your stick horse and you look exactly like him.
The Halloween Kid manages to hit a lot of the right spots for us. It’s championing Halloween first of all, and that’s a pretty good start. Toss in the classic Halloween monsters, the perfect art style, the hilarious vernacular, and the well-crafted storyline - and you can see why this is a special Halloween picture book for us. Of course it never hurts when something makes your child so happy they can’t stop laughing.
Are there any books that perfectly capture the Halloween spirit for your family? Do you have any shows or books that you insist on revisiting every single year? Tell us about them in the comments.