About the Holiday
What would Halloween be without jack-o-lanterns or autumn without pumpkin pie? Even the seeds of the orange gourds we celebrate today are delicious with a little roasting. Whether you like pumpkins that are perfectly round or a little misshapen, small or behemoth, why not visit a pumpkin patch and pick a perfect pumpkin.
The Vanishing Pumpkin
Written by Tony Johnston | Illustrated by Tomie dePaola
In a little yellow house there lived a 700-year-old woman and an 800-year-old man. Out the window the sun rises as round, plump, and orange as a pumpkin. “‘Lucky lizards!’” croaks the old man when he finds out that it’s Halloween day. “‘Fetch the pumpkin we’ve been saving, and let’s make a pumpkin pie.’” But when they go out to the pumpkin patch “the pumpkin had vanished from sight.”
The 700-year-old woman “looked in the coffeepot. No pumpkin. She looked in the bed. No pumpkin. She looked in her purse of magic powders. No pumpkin. Not a single one. Our Halloween pumpkin’s been snitched!’” the old woman cried. “‘Great snakes!’” exclaimed the old man, and the two fly off to find the culprit. They meet a ghoul sitting atop a fence, and the old man demands to know where his pumpkin is.
With the kind of audacity only a ghoul can give he growls, “‘Dunno’” and looks around himself, behind the old woman and behind the old man. “‘Stop that. Or I’ll do you such a trick,’” the old man threatens, but it seems that’s just what the ghoul wants. “‘Please do,’” he answers. The old man turns the ghoul as transparent as onionskin and gazes through him for the pumpkin. Everyone claps at this trick, but they don’t find the pumpkin.
The ghoul joins the old couple as they fly down the road where they come upon a rapscallion collecting mushrooms. At the order by the old man to produce his pumpkin, the rapscallion looks behind a rock, under his shoes, and in his mushroom basket. He finds no pumpkin, but offers a mushroom to replace it. “‘I shan’t eat mushroom pie. It’s pumpkin pie or nothing!” the old man thunders. “‘Then it’s nothing,’” sasses the rapscallion, and happily takes the trick the old man dishes out.
Although the rapscallion is hanging upside down in midair, no pumpkin falls out. Everyone claps at that trick, and they set off again. Next they find a varmint standing in a tree. “‘Varmint, did you see a pumpkin go by? A big fat one?’” the old man asks. “‘A great big fat one?’” asked the Varmint. The man jumps up and down in excitement. “‘Nope,’” the varmint answers “wickedly.” The varmint laughs as the old man turns him into a black cat with fleas, but even though the cat scratches and scratches, no pumpkin emerges.
“‘They went as fast as a 700-year-old woman and an 800-year-old man can. In fact, they fairly flew” with the others in tow. At last they see a 900-year-old-wizard rocking in a chair near a fire, but as they approach, the old man sees that the fire is actually his pumpkin “carved into a jack-o’-lantern and grinning from ear to ear.” “‘I borrowed your pumpkin,’” the wizard explains.
The 800-year-old man bemoans the loss of his pumpkin pie. But wait! That reminds the wizard of something. “‘That’s just what I made for you.’” he says. He searches inside the jack-o’-lantern, under his beard, and under his hat—and there it was! “So they all sat down and gobbled it up. What do you think of that?”
The team of Tony Johnston and Tomie dePaola never fails to delight kids with books they want to read over and over again. In The Vanishing Pumpkin Johnston introduces an old woman and an even older, cantankerous pumpkin pie loving man who have had their fattened up gourd “snitched on Halloween day. The imps they meet on their search are as silly as the little ones being read to can be, and Johnston’s feisty dialogue will make kids giggle. His repetitive phrasing allows for plenty of interactive read aloud fun, and you can bet there’ll be lots of clapping.
From the moment when Tomie dePaola’s mystical old woman with her high, tight hair bun and old man with his high suspendered pants discover their pumpkin missing and fairly fly off to find it, kids will happily tag along to discover Halloween mischief created by a green, pointy-eared ghoul, a cloaked rapscallion, a glowing varmint, and even a confused wizard who are a little scary but mostly sweet. dePaola’s color palette provides all the Halloween atmosphere readers expect, and the final spread of the gobbled up pie presents a satisfying ending.
Ages 3 – 8
Puffin Books, reprint edition, 1996 | ISBN 978-0698114142
To see more beloved books by Tomie dePaola and learn more about this prolific artists and writer, visit his website!
National Pumpkin Day Activity
Rock! Paint! Pumpkin! Craft
With carefully chosen rocks you can create one jack-o’-lantern or a whole pumpkin patch!
- Round, smooth rock ( or rocks in a variety of sizes)
- Orange craft paint
- Black permanent marker or black craft paint
- short sturdy twig (one for each rock)
- Hot glue gun or strong glue
- Clean and dry the rock
- Paint the rock orange, let dry
- Draw or paint a jack-o’-lantern face on the rock, let dry
- glue the short twig to the top of the rock pumpkin
Picture Book Review