We love a good festival here at Happydesigner, and Hallowe’en is one GREAT festival. There is so much to enjoy about it – stuff for children to do, great food to eat, games to play, trick or treating (responsibly, of course).
And, wow, there is so much orange around with all those pumpkins. If you read our blog back in April, where we chatted to our design supremo Sarah-Leigh Wills, you’ll know her favourite colour is orange!
So we love it, and it’s not long now until October 31. But what does Hallowe’en have to do with books? After all, at Happydesigner, we live and breathe children’s book illustration, so we have to have a bookish angle don’t we? There must be a ‘literary’ reason why we love Hallowe’en? Well we have been doing a bit of research and we think you might be interested in what we have come up with.
Hallowe’en and children’s books
There are LOADS of them. Hallowe’en really is a great source of inspiration, and if not Hallowe’en per se then certainly all the ghost and ghouls we associate with the festival.
‘Room on the Broom’? All about a witch. ‘The Worse Witch’? Ditto. The Harry Potter series? Stuffed with magic. All our favourite children’s book characters – from Horrid Henry to Peppa Pig – have, at some stage, jumped on the Hallowe’en bandwagon (or should that be ghost train) and starred in a spooky story.
We love them all. What a great seasonal reading list, whatever your age.
Tips on writing a scary story
If you fancy putting pen to paper, or finger to keyboard, and coming up with a story of your own, here are our top tips for writing a spooky tale for Hallowe’en.
- Set the scene. Think of an environment that will create the right mood – night-time, a full moon, howling storm, rattling window panes, candlelight. Be descriptive, so you evoke an emotion with your readers.
- Think about what scares you. Ghosts? Witches? Spiders? Moths? Then recall how this fear makes you feel, and put this into your story.
- Don’t forget jump scenes. You know the ones, especially in films, when the scary music starts playing just before something horrible is going to happen, and then suddenly… BOO! It happens. You can get some great jump scenes in books that will chill your readers.
- Pitch your story at your audience. It’s OK to feature Hallowe’en in even young children’s books – if Peppa Pig can, then you can. But do gear your writing to the age group. If you’re aiming at an older audience, you can dial up the scare-o-meter.
- Be true to your writing style, avoiding cliches and parody. If you copy someone’s style, and use tired old tropes, the readers will spot it. Finding your own unique voice can take time and practise, but it will be worth it for the end result.
What else can you do at Hallowe’en
We’ve mentioned trick or treating, but this must be done responsibly and – we would suggest – in a Covid safe way.
As an alternative, or as well, playing some Hallowe’en games, like apple bobbing, best fancy dress, best painted face, loudest BOO, or most creative pumpkin carving ,will provide hours of fun for children.
And of course, do read a few scary stories, in the dark, by candlelight. Not too scary, though, you don’t want people to have nightmares.
Finally, remember not everyone likes Hallowe’en. Its origins go back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts.
In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as All Saints Day, and so the evening before came to be known as All Hallows Eve, and later Hallowe’en.
Some churches are unhappy at the pagan aspect of Hallowe’en, and prefer to put the focus instead on All Saints Day, or a Harvest Festival.
Lots of people are unhappy at its commercialisation in recent years. It can be an expensive business – but it needn’t be.
At Happydesigner, we plan to mark Hallowe’en with a pumpkin, bowls of warming homemade soup, and enjoying a few spooky stories. Cheap as chips, and great fun.
We hope you enjoy your Hallowe’en. Have a spoo-oo-oo-ky time.
Have you an idea for a spooky children’s book that you’d love to see brought to life with Sarah-Leigh’s illustrations, then we’d love to hear from you. Whether you are just starting to get the story down, or you have a finished manuscript ready for illustrating, why not get in touch and we can have a chat.
Written by Jo Smyth (www.wordworker.co.uk)