Humbug Witch

by Lorna Balian

 Humbug Witch is the story of a witch and her cat Fred. She looks like a witch should, and acts like a witch should, but her spells and potions just won't work! Can you guess why? Read the story to discover the reason she struggles with her witching duties.

Sometimes things aren't what always what they seem, and many things at Halloween that may initially seems scary are just make-believe and all in fun. Lorna Balian's expressive use of text and illustrations add to the mystery and delight of this not-so-scary and oh-so-enjoyable Halloween book. This story will tickle the funny bones of trick or treaters of all ages!

In this Issue


Costume Collage



As young readers discover as they finish Humbug Witch, the little girl is no witch at all; it is simply a fun Halloween costume. Invite young readers to see themselves transformed with a magical costume of their own design but using scraps of this and that to create a fun costume collage. 

Does your young reader have trouble deciding on only one Halloween costume? This is the perfect activity to let young imaginations run wild with possibilities, and actually see their ideas come to life. Just like you believe the little girl is a real witch, young readers will actually see themselves transformed into what they have only imagined. 

While this is a perfect activity for October, young readers can use their imaginations to transform themselves any time of year. 

Costume Collage


  • Full body image of your young reader printed on card stock
  • Catalogus or magazines
  • Scissors
  • Glue stick
  • Construction paper
  • Stickers
  • Markers
  1. Take a picture of your young reader if necessary and print out on an 8.5 by 11 inch sheet of cardstock, so the image is large enough for your young reader to add costume details. 
  2. What costume will your young reader create? Invite your young reader to go through catalogs and magazines, cutting out images of clothing or textures to create the costume.  You can also use construction paper to create the whole costume or certain elements. 
  3. Glue the pieces to the photo to construct the costume. Add stickers and other Halloween elements with markers. 

You may also enjoy: Imagine If Portraits, Magnificent Hats! Mural


Watch and Enjoy

We love this short Disney cartoon featuring Witch Hazel, Huey, Dewey, and Louie, and Donald Duck. Trick or treat!


Magic Potion Stew


Just like the little witch's magic potion, you can dump "all the very best things" in your "very best kettle" and make a batch of Magic Potion Stew. 

Magic Potion Stew

Adapted from Black Bean 'n' Pumpkin Chili


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup witches teeth (about 1 onion, chopped)
  • 1 cup dragon scales (about 1 red or green bell pepper, chopped)
  • 1 14.5 ounce can swamp sludge (diced tomatoes in tomato juice)
  • 1 15 ounce can jack-o'-lantern stew starter (pumpkin)
  • 2 cups spider eggs (beans, white, black, or garbanzo)
  • 3 cups dried bats (bow tie pasta)
  • 4 cup swamp water (tomato juice)
  • Magic spices
    2 teaspoons chili powder
    1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
    1 1/2 teaspoons oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Spiderwebs for topping (shredded mozzarella cheese)
  1. In your "very best kettle," heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the chili powder and cumin and stir for 30 seconds. 
  2. Add the remaining ingredients (except the mozzarella) and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook until the pasta is tender, about 12 to 15 minutes. Towards the end, the stew will bubble and splatter, so be careful!
  3. Serve topped with spiderwebs!


You May Also Enjoy: Pumpkin-Peanut Butter SoupButton Soup

To go with your Magic Potion Stew: Snackin' BonesA Batty Good Snack, and Magic Wish Cookies


Explore our Not-so-Scary Halloween Pinterest Board for more festive ideas!


More from Off the Shelf

One Year Ago: Rattlebone Rock

Two Years Ago: Wobble the Witch Cat

Three Years Ago: Moonlight: The Halloween Cat

Four Years Ago:  Big Pumpkin

 This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting Off the Shelf!

Rattlebone Rock

by Sylvia Andrews
illustrated by Jennifer Plecas

From skeletons to witches, Rattlebone Rock is filled with all the familiar Halloween faces that we are used to seeing, and they are all joining together with the local townsfolk to have the biggest and best Halloween party ever! No scary stuff here, just a lot of rythmn, rhyme, and Halloween fun. This story is excellent for reading out loud and encouraging young readers to participate with sound effects and creative movement. Although this book is technically out of print, copies of Rattlebone Rock are available on Amazon and seem to be readily available at libraries. Get ready for lots of giggles and wiggles!

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The Vanishing Pumpkin

by Tony Johnston
illustrated by Tomie dePaola

The Vanishing Pumpkin is cumulative story filled with interesting Halloween characters who all have a taste for pumpkin, if they could only discover where it went! Not at all scary, but full of Halloween magic and Tomie dePaola's folksy illustrations, this is a book the ghosts and goblins of all ages will enjoy for Halloweens to come. 

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Old Black Witch

Dear Friends,

There are certain books that just stay with you forever. For us, Old Black Witch is one of those books. Old Black Witch is so embedded in our family's Halloween traditions that Nicky, his mother, and Old Black Witch herself seem like members of the family that come visiting every year. While not specifically a Halloween book, it was always packed away with the Halloween decorations, so bringing it out at the beginning of October was a much anticipated occasion. 

You might know Wende and Harry Devlin from the Cranberry books, including Cranberry Thanksgiving and Cranberry Valentine. This husband and wife team's books are charming and comforting; although considered vintage books, they have a modern feel that appeals to longtime fans as well as young readers discovering them for the first time. 

Happy Halloween to you and your young readers!


Old Black Witch

By Wende and Harry Devlin

Illustrated by Harry Devlin 

“Bats! Crickets! And snakes’ knees!” That endearing phrase is only one of many the unlikely heroine of Old Black Witch mutters throughout the timeless Halloween classic. Originally published in 1963, Old Black Witch! is the story of how Nicky and his other buy the perfect old house to turn into the Jug and Muffin Tea Room and then discover the house comes with a tiny resident witch who enjoys zooming around on her dilapidated broom and causing all sorts of mischief. Entertaining and fun to read, Old Black Witch is more charming than spooky but has just enough spine tingling antics to make it lots of Halloween fun.

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Wobble the Witch Cat

Dear Friends,

As darkness arrives a little bit earlier each day and dusk lingers a bit longer, there's more time for imaginations to think of Halloween witches and their black cats. We decided this was the perfect time to revisit an old favorite, Wobble the Witch Cat by a favorite childhood author Mary Calhoun.

I originally fell in love with Mary Calhoun's books as a young reader following the adventures of Katie John. I imaginged visiting Katie John in her big red brick house and having lots of adventures together. The books became even more special to me when I learned that Mary Calhoun's hometown was just a few miles down the road from where I grew up, and that big red brick house is still standing. It was as if Katie John became a favorite playmate! We hope you enjoy Wobble the Witch Cat and, if you don't know Mary Calhoun yet, she becomes one of your favorites as well. 


Wobble the Witch Cat

by Mary Calhoun

illustrated by Roger Duvoisin

Wobble, the Witch Cat is a happy little black Halloween cat that belongs to sweet-natured witch named Maggie. The two have always gotten along famously and enjoyed many Halloween adventures together until Maggie ruined their peaceful existence by getting a new broom. Something very unfortunate occurs when Wobble goes out with Maggie on the new broom and has caused Wobble to become very cross and dread the approach of the spooky night of Halloween.

The fun little Halloween tale, paired the vintage 1950s feeling illustrations by Roger Duvoisin, is a perfect choice for young trick-or-treaters who prefer Halloween stories that cause smiles and not scares.

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Ghosts in the House!

Dear Friends,

Does it seem to you that Halloween gets more and more ghoulish every year? We enjoy a zombie-free Halloween zone: our pumpkins all smile, our ghosts are friendly, and our witches have neither green skin nor warts. The spine-tingling side of the holiday certainly has its place, but children can often find it a bit overwhelming and worry there really might be monsters in the closet once the lights are turned out. 

So in keeping with this approach, here's our second spooky by not scary book to enjoy during the magical month of October. 

Ghosts in the House

by Kazuno Kohara

Kid power is the theme of this wonderful, whimsical Halloween book. The young heroine of Ghosts in the House! is a confident little witch who knows just what to do with all the ghosts in the splendid house at the edge of town. With the help of her spunky little cat, she immediately takes charge of the situation and transforms the ghosts from haunting to helpful in a very clever way.

Full of stunningly simple illustrations with an almost tactile appearance to them, the book has a vintage look of children’s literature from the 195op0s when really the publication date is 2008. The colors are limited to black and orange and gauzy white, making the ghosts looks as if they could float right off the page. This is a book to be placed on the must read list and one that will be pulled from the shelf year after year to celebrate the Halloween season.

In this Issue

Banana Ghost Pops

As fun to make as they are to eat, these cute little ghost pops are a healthier alternative to more traditional Halloween treats!

Banana Ghost Pops - Ghosts in the House! - Off the Shelf

Young Readers in the Kitchen

This no-cook recipe is perfect for little witches and warlocks to make with a parent's help. Every step in this recipe is kid friendly, depending on age and skill level.

Banana Ghost Pops

Makes 2; increase as desired


  • 1 Banana
  • Apple juice or cider
  • Shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
  • 4 Chocolate chips
  • 2 Wooden popsicle sticks
  1. Pour apple juice or cider into a small, shallow dish to a depth of about 1/2 inch.
  2. Spread some shredded coconut in another dish or on a plate. 
  3. Peel banana and slice in half. Insert one popsicle stick in each half. 
  4. Place banana in dish with juice and roll to coat banana. Transfer the banana to the dish of coconut and press so that coconut sticks to banana. 
  5. Insert two chocolate chips in each banana for eyes (and maybe another for a mouth!).
  6. Place on a cookie sheet and freeze until firm, about 2 hours. Enjoy!



Clothesline Ghosts

Inspired by the transparent inhabitants in Ghosts in the House!, these tissue paper ghosts keep little fingers busy creating their own versions to hang out to dry. 

Clothesline Ghosts Craft - Ghosts in the House! - Off the Shelf

Why We Like It

  • Tearing the ghosts, using the hole punch, and clipping the ghosts to the string are all wonderful for building fine motor skills.
  • Creating organic ghost shapes encourages imagination and creativity. 

Clothesline Ghosts


  • White tissue paper
  • Hole punch
  • Hole reinforcement stickers
  • Black crayon
  • String
  • Mini clothespins (or paper clips)
  1. Tear a ghost shape from tissue paper. Repeat until you have desired number of ghosts. 
  2. Use hole punch to punch eyes in each ghost. Place a hole reinforcement sticker around each eye. 
  3. Use black crayon to give each ghost a mouth.
  4. Cut a length of string long enough to hold all of your ghosts. Clip each ghost to string with a mini clothes pin or paperclip. 



Bats at the Library

Dear Friends,

This week's book perfectly captures the sense adventure that a book can inspire in a reader. No matter what library we visit, the moment we walk in the door we have the anticipation of discoveries to be made. Are we bookaholics? Maybe. We do have a countdown until the next used book sale at our local historic home, and we do have the release of Jan Brett's next book in BIG LETTERS on our calender, we'll leave it to you to decide! How about you? Are you a bookaholic?

It's October, and this week marks the first of our Halloween books. Our picks this year, we feel, illustrate the best of Halloween, with just a bit of spooky, but never scary. Please join us throughout October as we continue with Ghosts in the House!, Wobble the Witch Cat, and Old Black Witch!

Bats at the Library

by Brian Lies

Despite the Halloween air to the illustrations done in dark colors and, of course, pages filled with bats, Bats at the Library is not specifically a Halloween book. It isspecifically a highly entertaining book celebrating the fun of reading, the excitement of good books and the adventures that can be found in the library. Through rhyming text and fanciful illustrations, author Brian Lees shows us how books and reading can inspire the imagination and ignite a reader’s curiosity

Bats at the Library

Bats at the Library

Adding to the appeal of this book is the unlikely choice of ambassadors of reading the author has chosen. We generally do not think of bats for this lofty title, but a colony of bats make the perfect choice to show readers what happens when a window is accidentally left open at the local library allowing the flying creatures of the night to take over. 

Bats at the Library

Making shadow puppets on the overhead projector, turning the drinking fountain into a batty swimming pool, and turning the photocopier into their own personal portrait studio are just of a few of the comical games the bats play until the magic of story time and becoming lost in a book take over.

Bats at the Library

Notice anyone familiar

Bats at the Library

How about here? For more about the numerous picture book references, check out this post from the Carle Museum!

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Moonlight: The Halloween Cat

By Cynthia Rylant
Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Moonlight: The Halloween Cat is a warm and cozy Halloween book that tells the story of a gentle black cat on her favorite night of the year. Smiling pumpkins, trick-or-treaters and shining stars are just a few of sights Moonlight sees as she explores the dark night before making her way inside her own front door.

Artist Melissa Sweet illustrated the book with luminous paintings that seem to glow and come to life as each page is turned. The text is eloquent and lyrical, mimicking the softly padding movements of Moonlight as she makes her way from one favorite spot to the next.

Told in a way that is gentle, yet conveying the excitement of the holiday, Moonlight The Halloween Cat is a perfect book for Halloween readers of every age.

In this Issue

  • Moonlight the Halloween Cat Pipe Cleaner Art
  • Black as Moonlight Chocolate Pudding
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    The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything

    By Linda Williams
    Illustrated by Megan Lloyd 

    A new twist on an old tale, The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything is a just-spooky-enough Halloween book to send shivers down the spine but not frighten even the youngest of trick-or-treaters.

    With limited text and lots of repetition, young readers will love to join in and help read the refrain with enthusiastic sound effects. Participating in the reading process is an important early literacy skill that encourages a love of books and reading and sparks creativity and imagination.

    The little old lady set out through a dark, autumn forest to gather herbs and spices, nuts and seeds. (Perhaps she is planning to prepare trail mix?) On her way home she encounters many mysterious items who try their spooky best to frighten her. Because the little old lady is not afraid of anything she bravely continues on her way until….!

    Illustrations by Megan Lloyd are warm and folksy, filled with autumn colors and fun details. Enjoy the book with your young reader to find out how the little old lady outwits the scary things and makes a happy ending to the book. 

     In this Issue

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    Boo to You!

    Dear Friends,

    Don't you love Lois Ehlert's books? Her use of collage is so inventive, especially when transforming the images of everyday objects into something completely re-imagined. Who else would think to make a cat's teeth out of pumpkin seeds? So often as adults we become very strict in the way things should be perceived and done; things are very black and white. A child's imagination allows them to color their world however they want, with cranberry eyes and corncob ears, of course adapting to suit the occasion!  

    While a lot of her books simply use different types of paper to depict the subject, what I love about Boo to You! is the addition of photographed and Xeroxed images of some of her "favorite fall objects".  Children naturally have the tendency to collect little things, and a walk around the block or an outing to the park can result in a treasure trove of art supplies. Put this scavenger trait to good use in creating these adorable little mice puppets for a Harvest Party Puppet Show.

    Imagination is such a powerful tool and allows children to “see” how a simple seed or twig can be transformed into a multitude of fascinating items. When you let go and give your young reader the opportunity to express this ability, you will build their confidence in their choices, their creative process, and the validity of their thoughts. Besides all that, it’s just plain fun!


    Boo to You!

    by Lois Ehlert

    In author/illustrator Lois Ehlert's Boo to You!, adorable, fuzzy mice figure out a plan to outsmart the scary cat and keep him from ruining their Harvest Party. Throughout the book the mice build their plan, and by the end are ready to meet their nemesis head on and turn him from a scary cat to a scaredy cat.

    Ehlert used fall time crops such as pumpkins, corn, and gourds to create her signature mixed media collage illustrations, add scavenger hunt feel to reading the book. Prompt yur young reader to try and identify all the things he or she recognizes on each page. A pictorial list of the items used to create the collages is featured at the end of the book.


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