October is the perfect time for not-very-scary Halloween stories. Spook is a little black dog owned by a nasty witch named Grimalda. All nasty broom-traveling witches need an animal familiar, and since Grimalda is allergic to cats she’s stuck with poor little Spook, who is fed dried bats’ wings and is never allowed outside the miserable one-room home, with the exception of when he’s flying on the back of her broom. Spook does not like traveling by means of a broom, for he slips and slides around, and is always afraid of falling off.
On Halloween Grimalda needed to travel to a distant cave and, along with all her sister witches, receive a bag of tricks that had to be used up before midnight. The head witch didn’t approve of Grimalda having a dog for a familiar, or sneezing when in a cave full of black cats owned by other witches, so she gave her a severe warning to not mess up when it came to using up all her bag of tricks.
After mounting her broom and setting off at top speed Grimalda had a fresh bout of sneezing, which caused the broom to sway, and Spook to fall off. Down he fell, right into a tub of water, where a family of human children were bobbing for apples. He fell on the smallest human, a boy named Jamie, who’d been trying to get an apple. Jamie and Spook were both pulled to safety, and Spook wasn’t happy to see what looked to be a witch, skeleton, pirate and devil. He didn’t understand about Halloween costumes.
Jamie, dressed as a devil, was told he had to go inside to get dry, but he wouldn’t go in without Spook. His mother dried him off and put him in pajamas, robe and slippers. He told her the dog now belonged to him, but she just said they can keep him overnight, before taking him to the pound, where his real owners can find him. His older siblings got to go Trick or Treating, but Jamie was told he was too small, and needed to stay home and care for the little dog.
Jamie didn’t want to do as he was told, so when the telephone rang, and Mother went to another room to answer it, he put on his devil mask, told Spook he knew which way the others were going, and left the house, with Spook following him. Jamie did meet up with his siblings, and his disobedience wouldn’t have caused too much trouble if Grimalda hadn’t been bound and determined to get her familiar back.
Treat or Treat night is the best time for nasty witches to go amongst humans, for everyone just thinks they’re a trouble-making older child wearing a costume. Grimalda was able to snatch up Spook but Jamie ran after her, for he considered Spook his dog. He jumped on the back of Grimalda’s broom and, though the witch grabbed a shrinking cap out of her bag of tricks and tried to shrink the boy, she dropped the cap when two sentential crows flew on each side of her.
The crows had been sent by the head witch to watch over the other witches, and they decided Grimalda wasn’t behaving as she should. Grimalda had to return to the cave, and the head witch demanded she explain why she had a human with her, and why her tricks weren’t all used up. If that wasn’t enough to anger Grimalda her stubborn familiar refused to come to her, and stayed by the side of Jamie. As punishment she turned Spook into a caterpillar, but when Jamie picked him up for safekeeping he became a little dog once more.
This interested the head witch. Grimalda has a witch’s power, but Jamie seemed to possess the “magical” power of love. She proposed a contest – Grimalda would turn Spook into three different objects, and if Jamie could turn him back into a dog at least two out of three times, Jamie could keep the dog, and transportation home would be provided. But if Jamie lost, well, witches don’t tend to play nice.
Don’t worry, this not-very-scary book has a happy ending, and Spook gets to stay with the boy his loves. Boy and dog are returned to the family’s kitchen, and Jamie declares the dog’s name is Spook, and he officially belongs to him. And Spook, for the first time in his life, discovers that when a dog is happy his tail wags as if it would never stop.
Spook, written by Jane Little, was first published by Scholastic Book Services in 1965 and, according to what’s written inside of my book, I received a copy in 1967. I’ve kept this short novel for more than half-a-century because I like the characters of Spook and Jamie, and find the story an enjoyable read. The book stayed in print for at least ten years so used copies are plentiful, but tend to be pricey through online sellers. Since most readers won’t bother getting a copy of the book I provided the ending so you’ll know love is more powerful than a witch’s power – even on Halloween.