Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Gather 'round, children.

... for once again, it's story time.

Among the many titles on the shelves of the Skull & Pumpkin reside numerous 'old school' works; books that shaped us, books that changed the way we looked at our world, but mostly the books we simply enjoyed as children.

Like Hallowe'en itself, some of the books we grew up reading are timeless, and continue to delight. For those of us who are Autumn People, the stories concerned with Hallowe'en are especially beloved, no matter how small...

So gather 'round, and I'll tell you the tale of Spider, and how he saved Hallowe'en...

(In case, I don't know... you thought the cover was lying?)

It was Hallowe'en Eve and, try as I might, I couldn't think of a good disguise.

No matter what costume I tried on, I still looked like me.

I went to see my good friend Ladybug, hoping she might help.
She was on the porch carving a jack o'lantern with Fly.
"I hope I'm not intruding," I said.
"You're always intruding," said Fly.
"Hush Fly," said Ladybug. "Come in Spider, you're always welcome."
"Thank you," I replied. I never felt that Fly liked me. But Ladybug liked me enough for two!

"Why aren't you wearing your costume?" asked Ladybug.
"Because my problem is that no matter what I put on I still look like me."
"That is a problem," said Fly.
"We'll solve it," said Ladybug. "Let's go inside, and Fly and I will get into our costumes. It will help us get ideas."
"Good," I said.
Fly went into the bathroom. Minutes later he came out in a beard and cap.

"Who am I?" asked Fly.
"Santa Claus," I replied.
"Wrong," said Fly. "I'm one of the seven dwarfs."

Then Ladybug excused herself and went into the bathroom to change into her costume.
Minutes later she emerged.

"Who am I?" asked Ladybug.
"A witch," I said.
"Correct," said Ladybug.

"Now for you," said Ladybug. She dressed me up in ladies' clothes.
"You still look like you," said Fly.

"Still looks like himself," said Ladybug.
"Looks even more like himself," said Fly.

A cowboy suit wasn't much better.

We all put our heads together to think of a costume that would really disguise me.
Suddenly there was a sickening SQUASH from the porch.

We all ran outside to see what it was.
Ladybug's jack o'lantern was wrecked!
Two bullies with baseball bats were hooting and running away.

Ladybug burst into tears. "Our beautiful pumpkin!" she cried.
"And it's too late to get another," moaned Fly. "Hallowe'en is ruined!"
"It's true," I said. "Hallowe'en without a pumpkin just isn't Hallowe'en."
I stopped feeling sorry for myself and started feeling sorry for my friends.

Then I got an idea. "Color me orange!" I said. They colored me orange.

While they were coloring me orange, I cut up a piece of green construction paper.
"Paste this onto my head," I said.

Fly got the paste jar. Ladybug did the pasting.

Then I took a black marker and drew lines on myself and blacked out my front teeth.

"You're a pumpkin!" they both exclaimed. "Hallowe'en isn't spoiled after all!"

"You're darn tootin'," I said. "On to trick or treat!"

We trick-or-treated all over the neighborhood, and everyone gave us lots of treats and admired our costumes... especially the walking, talking pumpkin.

At last our bags were full and we headed home -- when who should we see coming down the street but the two bullies who had smashed the jack o'lantern, They were heading our way with cans of shaving cream.

"They'll spray us with shaving cream!" cried Ladybug.
"They'll steal our trick or treats," moaned Fly.
"No they won't," I said. "They're bullies, and bullies are cowards. Quick. Hide behind this bush."

Just as the bullies passed by, I jumped out and screamed "BOO!"

The bullies dropped their shaving cream and ran away screaming, "A pumpkin ghost! A pumpkin ghost! Save us! Save us!"

We went back to Ladybug's house and counted our loot. Ladybug planted a kiss on my cheek and Fly shook my hand.
"Because you saved Hallowe'en," said Ladybug.
"I must admit you did it," said Fly. "You saved Hallowe'en."

I guess I had. And I was very happy to have saved Hallowe'en for my two dear friends, Fly and Ladybug.


I love the crayon and marker simplicity, except that Spider says he drew lines on himself but there are no lines -- that always irked me.

I also love that the senior bug couple who open their door to our trick-or-treating heroes look just like the bullies. They could be those bullies' grandbugs!

Robert Kraus wrote and illustrated this tale and first published it in 1973 through -- who else? -- Scholastic Books (this very copy is a first edition salvaged from my youth). I recall my mother reading it to us then.

It's still in print.... I wonder if Scholastic will ask me to remove these images.

By the way, Kraus wrote 15 other Spider tales (including tales of how Spider saved other well-known holidays). I've never seen any of them. Have any of you?

I hope you've all enjoyed story time... and how 'bout that clever, resourceful Spider, eh? Taking down mean people (well, bugs) and helping his friends at the same time. Them be some fine instincts, and a lesson for us all.

Thanks Spider!


  1. SPIDER!!!!! Run for your lives!!!

    Sorry, I suffer from sever arachnophobia....cute or not....still a spider - shudder :D

    Thanks for sharing. That was fun.


  2. Love stuff like that. You are very welcome, your majesty. And hey, remember... frogs and spiders both love to eat flies, so you have something (kinda yucky) in common! :-)

  3. oh JOY, RAPTURE!
    again, a pleasurable visit....