My husband Jeff, a fourth grade teacher, and I love books. When we go on vacation, we enjoy visiting the local library and browsing their used bookstore. We always find a special treat to take home with us. At our thrift stores, we head to the book section to see what choice tidbits are on sale. We hang out at local bookstores. For Christmas and birthdays and “just-because” days, our wishlist often includes books.
Books! Books! Books! Our home overflows with books. Right now, I have 50+ library books spread out in various piles near our different comfy reading spots in different rooms. I used to feel bad about the stacks of books along with the overflowing bookshelves until one day I decided to embrace our passion and designate our home as a “nest of books.”
One of our family’s all-time favorite “eggs” in our nest is our permanent collection of Mother Goose and nursery rhymes as well as “visitors” of treasures that come and go from our local library.
When our boys were young, Mother Goose: The Original Volland Edition was nearly a daily read. The old-fashioned art and delicate colors set the tone for falling in love with the heritage Mother Goose has to offer our family as we passed down each nursery rhyme to the next generation.
And Tasha Tudor! Oh, what is any mother’s reading lap without the delightful and rich books of Tasha Tudor! Complete with sweet goslings and adorable kittens, Tasha Tudor’s Mother Goose brings fresh joy with every turn of the page.
In our home, however, Mother Goose wasn’t just confined to pages within a book. We still have the vinyl record, Walt Disney Presents Mother Goose Rhymes and Their Stories. We marched around in our own rhythm band clanging pots and pans with wooden spoons while singing along with the record. We sang the songs in the car together and while swinging on the swings. (Swinging simply MUST be accompanied by singing! It’s a tradition from my childhood days that we passed along to our sons and now to our grandson.)
Our collection of Mother Goose “eggs” in our nest still continues to grow as we add new favorites today. It’s little wonder then, that over the years I’ve dreamed of writing my own Mother Goose rhymes to add to the rich traction of childhood pleasures and treasures.
Raising two boys, pirates were a perennial favorite, so it was only natural for me to combine the rollicking good fun of piratey adventures with the beloved rhymes our family has always enjoyed. My hope is that this new generation of mommies, daddies, and little ones will learn to love Mother Goose and nursery rhymes in a fresh new way!
I grew up in Maine, where trick-or-treating was often a frosty affair. My mom would insist that snow boots looked perfectly fine with Cinderella’s ballgown, and that Frankenstein was still totally scary beneath a puffy down coat. My kids are growing up in South Florida, where I wage the opposite battle. Every October, I pitch costume ideas that involve shorts. “How about a boxer? I can give you a fake black eye! Or a lifeguard. You can wear a whistle!” This never works. Our first year here, my boys dressed as Power Rangers, in full-length polyester suits. They got so hot on the walk home that they stripped down to their underwear. Another year, they were Indiana Jones (cargo pants, long-sleeved shirt) and his greaser son, Mutt (jeans, “leather” jacket). That was an especially sweaty Halloween. (Faux leather does not breathe. AT ALL). This year, the boys plan to be Batman and Robin. Come on….wouldn’t some nice cotton shorts look perfectly fine on the Dynamic Duo?
When Sam was three, “fairy” was the Halloween costume of choice. Many trick-or-treaters mistook Sam for royalty. “What a pretty princess!” they exclaimed. “I’m not a princess,” Sam snarled back. “I’m a fairy!”
The funny thing was, no one considered he might be a boy.
At six, Sam startled us by wanting to be Luke Skywalker. Given that we’d never seen him express interest in a masculine costume, we didn’t know what to think, except that Halloween is a time for experimenting, trying on new identities, or being things we are not.
Each year, pink boys wonder: If I wear the costume I want to, will the kids at school make fun of me? The parents of pink boys wonder: Is this safe? Can—should—we trick-or-treat somewhere where nobody knows us? Of course there’s no “right” answer; each family has to work out on their own what works for their child. If this is your family’s struggle, we recommend a video from The Onion, America’s favorite satirical news outlet: “How To Find A Masculine Halloween Costume For Your Effeminate Son.” It won’t answer your questions, but it will help you laugh about them.
Dressing up like pirates was always a fun costume choice when our two boys were small. From store-bought accessories to homemade ones, there were so many options. Eye patches, hats, bandanas and more! School parades and trick-or-treating were lots of fun…but the fun didn’t end on the last day of October for us.
Costumes and accessories were added to a laundry basket designated as “dress-up clothes.” Kept right next to all the gadgets and gizmos of childhood, the items in this basket were played with almost more than any other toy we owned. I loved the imaginative play it encouraged. Our kids loved it for all the exciting moments they had.
They’d play “dress-up” and re-enact favorite stories we’d read. They’d pretend to be a pirate or a dinosaur or an astronaut (Yes, we had a dinosaur and astronaut costume, too!) or “fly” around the house wearing a cape made from a large scrap of fabric. Many family memories were made—all from playing “dress-up” the whole year round.
When I think of Halloween, I think of my right ankle. I broke it three times: in first, fourth, and sixth grades, each time right before Halloween, a holiday where ankles really come in handy for trick-or-treating.
The first time my brother John told the neighbors about my injury and they compassionately dispensed sympathy treats. The second time John was with his fifth-grade cronies and didn’t want to seem uncool, soliciting candy for his clumsy kid sister, though some of the neighbors kicked in an extra candy bar. But the third time we had just moved to a new neighborhood where no one knew us and John volunteered nothing, so no one knew of my candy-less plight.
That night John came home to me lying miserably on the sofa and the guilt kicked in. He gave me the candy he didn’t like, basically anything with peanuts. This brings me to my second, happier Halloween memory: Snickers. Years later, when I took my own kids trick-or-treating, I would relive my youth by coaxing them into sharing their Snickers bars, insisting I deserved something for walking with them for hours. I’m happy to report guilt worked, just like it did on John.
I turned 15 years old on Oct. 19th. This was the first year I started to feel a little old for Halloween — a favorite holiday for my best friend Lori and I since we shared October birthdays, too. I wrote in my diary at the time that John, a boy I crushed on, went trick-or-treating with us that year. Lori and I always had so much fun making costumes and walking out in our friendly neighborhood to collect candy. Afterwards, to avoid eating TOO much candy at once, we made a game of hiding our wrapped candy in our bedrooms. We’d usually forget where we hid it, making Halloween last a long time.
As a kid, I was obsessed with Halloween. I mean, free candy! Candy was rare in our house. On October 31 every year, I’d amass as much of it as possible, come back to the house for the sister swap (I had three sisters, we each had different preferences, and usually at least one of us had braces that made some candies taboo), and then put my final collection in a shoe box. Showing willpower that I only wish I still had today, I strictly rationed my stash so that it lasted as long as possible. My record was the year I stretched it until Valentine’s Day.
It’s actually amazing that it’s taken me so long in my writing life to get to Halloween—but I’m happy with the result. The title of my picture book, Trick Arrr Treat, came first, and then I just went with it. Pirates were a big deal to my son when he was little. When we went to the beach, we’d bring along his pirate hat and a pirate flag, and we’d bury some kind of treasure for him to dig up.
My books almost always end up with a dog or two in them—this time, the dog plot was one of several ideas my editor came up with, and it seemed like a natural fit. I especially had fun coming up with the characters’ names; I think everyone should have a pirate name! What’s yours?