It’s spooky time! Get set for Hallowe’en

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.

  1. 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.
  2. Think about what scares you. Ghosts? Witches? Spiders? Moths? Then recall how this fear makes you feel, and put this into your story.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
childrens book illustrator

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 (

A few of my previous clients

happydesigner clients

  • "Sarah quickly understood what I wanted to achieve and the look I was after. Sarah kept me informed and brought me into the whole process” – Darron Jon Love

  • "Sarah understood what I was looking for and produced a fantastic logo for me.  She is very approachable and friendly – I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend her” Katie Jarvis, Fancy Prints

  • Sarah really understood the brief right from the beginning and has been able to translate my ideas and mental images, that at times were quite specific, into magical illustrations that are better than I’d ever hoped. She has absolutely nailed it!” – Gareth Edwards

  • "I am absolutely thrilled with the colours and love the look and overall feel of the book, its so different and unique, thank you so much"
  • Sarah is professional, friendly and very knowledgeable, she delivered 100% with a new logo that was spot on! We can't recommend her enough!” - Lucy @ Get Active

  • "She has a keen eye for the quirky detail, she is punctual and a joy to work with. I simply cannot praise her enough.” - Clickety Books

  • “Sarah’s re-branding of my business has given it a much needed fresh and quirky feel. She provided us with an extremely friendly courteous and efficient service and injected an energy into the project, that only Sarah could.” – Discovery Leisure

  • Sarah has a great insight into how to best produce a children’s book and is really helpful in getting you there! I really cannot recommend Sarah enough – brilliant designer, friendly and professional. The experience has been a great one!“ – Jodie Jackson
  • Sarah is an extremely talented designer and illustrator. She has that rare gift of being able to find something in your business or character that you never knew existed" Craig Green

  • "Outstanding illustrator with exceptional talent. You couldn’t wish for a better artist, as it would be impossible to find. Such a spectacular gifted designer who is always happy!" - Rachel Lake

  • “When we first contacted Sarah, Dainty Dizzy was a concept;  an idea to be shaped into a brand.  Sarah took this idea and illustrated it perfectly….and our brand look and feel was born.” – Dainty Dizzy

  • “Thank you, Sarah, for the amazing work you did on the illustrations for my book. Working with you has been so easy thanks to your enthusiasm, flexibility, support, professionalism and, of course, the amazing quality of your work." – Stuart Neath

  • "Thank you both so much for your hard work and dedication. Sarah is a fantastic illustrator! It is nice to know I have worked with someone who is so professional at her job, and will certainly remember her for the future if I need another book illustrating."
  • “I am so happy that I found Sarah to bring my book to life. Sarah took the time to listen and really made the effort to make sure that I was happy and her brilliant designs translated the words of my book into a beautiful visual story." - Jodie Jackson

  • "I can’t speak highly enough of Sarah! She has brought Roopert Snoopert to life in a way I could never have imagined.
    The illustrations are fantastic! Sarah keeps you update with progress from the draft stage right through to sign off." - Paul Micklewright
  • “Books arrived safely today- I am absolutely delighted with how they look – I can’t thank you enough – you’ve made my dream come true :)” – Jane Collins

  • “Sarah’s advice has been invaluable, she could have just illustrated my first attempt but knew there was more to be had from the story and pointed me towards the right help." – Darron Jon Love

  • "I hope my recommendation will persuade you to use Sarah! I cannot fault her, for her professionalism, enthusiasm and talent." - Michelle Hawkins, Director: The Flying DoDo

  • “Sarah was lovely to work with and keen to make sure that the illustrations were a perfect match for the story. It’s obvious that she really cares about her work and wants you, the author, to be happy with the final results.” – Marion Adams

  • "Sarah is amazing - very fast at understanding the requirements, great pictures and never too much trouble. I recommend her wholeheartedly" - Fernando Caldeira-Saraiva
  • "The logos are absolutely fantastic, they are spot on brief and are even better than we imagined!Paolo Pini, Step Up To Languages

  • "Sarah loves her work, her friendly ‘can do’ approach is reassuring whether you’re on your first or tenth book."  – Darron Jon Love
  • “I was so nervous ringing you as i've never done anything like this before, but you were so friendly and put me completely at ease.” - Donna Purvis

  • "These posters and flyers are perfect”
    - Julia G, Manager at the Truro branch of Pets at Home

  • "WOW! Love it! I'm so happy with what you've produced- and with so little input from me. FANTASTIC!!! THANK YOU” - Darren Pascoe: 'Red Rabbit Book'

  • "It's been great working with Sarah as our illustrator! She's been so great in taking all feedback on board and delivers work of the highest standard. Would 100% recommend :-)" - Michelle Gibbs, Doodle Dozen Series