Lila and the Jack-o’-Lantern: Halloween Comes to America

Albert Whitman. Sept. 2023. 32p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780807566633.
PreS-Gr 3–A delightfully written story based on how the Irish brought their Halloween traditions to America. Lila and her family leave Ireland in 1850 due to the potato famine, but Lila is worried about leaving behind her Halloween traditions. In Ireland, a sly spirit named Jack walked the streets on Halloween, playing pranks. So, the children carved turnips into jack-o’-lanterns and put them in their windows so he wouldn’t visit their house. They also wore sheets and knocked on doors for treats, thinking Jack would believe them to be spirits. When Lila cannot find any turnips in America, she thinks a pumpkin at the market might work. She and her new friend Julia make a jack-o’-lantern from the pumpkin, eat her mother’s colcannon (mashed potatoes, kale, and onions) and barmbrack (fruit bread), and roast the pumpkin seeds. They start a new friendship and a new American Halloween tradition. Illustrations are done in warm autumn hues, capturing the time period perfectly, with whimsical artwork. Back matter includes an author’s note and information on the traditional Irish foods of barmbrack and colcannon, including a recipe for the latter.
VERDICT A lovely story time book that lends itself to great discussions on Halloween traditions. This delightful picture book is a must-have for elementary libraries.

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