Review: The Best Halloween Ever by Barbara Robinson

Middle Grade Madness

The Best Halloween Ever by Barbara Robinson

The Herdmans plus Halloween have always spelled disaster

Every Halloween, the six Herdman kids steal candy, spray-paint other kids, and take everything that isn’t nailed down. And this year promises to be the same, until the Mayor decides to up and cancel Halloween. True, that means there’d be no Herdman trouble to contend with, but that also means no candy, no costumes, and no trick-or-treating! Is it possible that the Herdmans themselves could make what looks like a horrible Halloween into the best one ever?

Title: The Best Halloween Ever (The Herdmans #3)
Author: Barbara Robinson
Publication date: 2004

The Best Halloween Ever skews to the younger side of middle grade, if it can even be considered middle grade. What’s between picture books and middle grade? Whatever that is, The Best Halloween probably ever fits into that category. I chose to read The Best Halloween Ever because I loved the first book in the series, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. (I loved the made-for-television movie even more.) The Best Christmas Pageant Ever was written in 1971, so I assume this book, even though it wasn’t written for more than thirty more years, takes place in the same time period. That makes it more believable that the Herdmans are allowed to run wild without the intervention of social services.

The six Herdman children — Ralph, Imogene, Leroy, Claude, Ollie, and Gladys — are bad kids: bullies, liars, and thieves. Even their cat, which is missing “one eye and half its tail and most of its fur and any good nature it ever had,” is bad. It bit so many people that the Herdmans now have to keep it on a chain in their yard.

The Herdmans, one to each grade, have caused all sorts of trouble at Woodrow Wilson School. On past Halloweens, the Herdmans have terrorized the town so much that the adults aren’t willing to deal with them anymore and the mayor takes it upon himself to cancel Halloween. There’s to be no trick-or-treating and there’s not even Halloween candy in the stores! Instead, the school will host a Halloween party. It doesn’t sound all that different from the various parties held these days at churches and other organizations these days, but it’s an unwelcome event to the kids in this book. It doesn’t seem to be mandatory, but what else are you going to do that night?

The Best Halloween Ever is a simple story about the weeks leading up to Halloween, the anticipation, and the party at school. Will the Herdmans manage to ruin Halloween again? Or will they sit out the party, the way they usually do with anything involving school? It’s cute and funny, and I’m glad I accidentally discovered that there were more stories about the Herdmans and the other kids in their town. While not quite living up to the standards set in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, it brought back good memories.

3 1/2 stars