A Read Aloud Series Book
Jessica was sad. She was sadder than ever before in her life which had begun only ten years earlier.
The reason Jessica was sad was because it seemed all the other children in her school knew exactly what they wanted to be when they grew up, and she didn’t.
They were going to be cowboys or doctors, lawyers or mothers, architects or engineers, or any number of different things.
And, Jessica wasn’t the least bit interested in any one of them. Her own father was a teacher, and Jessica hated school.
Her mother was a nurse, and Jessica really didn’t like sick people even when she was the one who wasn’t well.
“Oh, woe is me,” she said aloud. “Whatever shall I do?”
Halloween was fast approaching and Jessica didn’t even know what costume she wanted to wear. There was one thing she did know for certain. She was supposed to go to market and buy the largest pumpkin she could carry in her wagon. Her father had promised he would help her carve a very scary face in the pumpkin, and they would place a candle inside to be lit each night until Halloween.
On her way, Jessica ignored the path that led through the forest. It was a shortcut, but it was dark and she wanted to enjoy the full effect of the sun, and she was in no hurry. At the market she was very careful in making up her mind on which pumpkin she would buy.
She stopped first at Peter’s Pumpkin Parlor. There was a large variety of pumpkins in the parlor.
There were big ones and small ones and narrow ones and fat ones. She almost bought a very large one but she wasn’t sure she would be able to pull it all the way home.
Next, she went to Jack’s Jack-O-Lantern Lair where there seemed to be hundreds of almost perfect pumpkins.
Jessica wandered among the rows of pumpkins, carefully examining each one until finally she saw the one she wanted. It was fat and round and very big, but not so big she wouldn’t be able to fit it into her wagon, nor too heavy for her to pull.
She stood for a while and stared at the pumpkin imagining various faces carved into its surface. There would be plenty of room for a very scary face, and when the inside of the pumpkin was cleaned, it would hold a very large candle.
Jessica was very pleased with her purchase and Jack even put it into the wagon for her.
It would stay right there until her father came home that night. She thought.
She had also bought the candle that was now in a small bag which she had put into the wagon with the pumpkin.
Jessica was walking happily on her way home pulling her wagon when she saw a great number of children in the road ahead.
It was teachers’ day at the school so all the children were out and about and probably looking for some way to make mischief. She wasn’t interested in playing or making mischief so she decided to use the path through the forest.
It was darker in the forest than on the street, but it was almost evening anyway, and it was a shorter way home.Jessica tried to ignore the slight chill she felt as she stepped on to the dusty path and began her journey into the dark forest. She wasn’t afraid, she told herself, but she did pick up her pace, a little.
She was quite surprised to see an alligator reading a newspaper as it sat in the small marsh on her right. As she passed, the alligator turned to her and said,
“Aha, I see you have brought the pumpkin. How very nice. They will be most pleased.”
Jessica didn’t even pause long enough to ask who the alligator meant by ‘they’. She had never before seen an alligator, much less at the edge of this forest, so she quickened her pace once again along the path leading straight ahead.
She almost didn’t hear the voice from a tiny fairy silhouetted on a small plant as it said:
“Oh, how very nice, you’ve brought the pumpkin. They will be very pleased.”
Jessica hurried on, a little more frightened than before, when straight ahead of her, appeared a group of goblins! Now she had to stop or risk running directly into them. Then she saw a path to the right, and another to the left. She couldn’t decide which way to go so she stopped right in front of the menacing creatures.
“Aha!” cried the tallest of the group. “Can’t decide which way to go?”
“She can’t even decide what she wants to be when she grows up,” another goblin chimed in.
“How can we expect her to decide which path she should follow?” said the voice of a third member of the group.
Jessica stood very still and looked at one goblin after another. They were right, she knew, because it was true she didn’t know what she wanted to be when she grew up, and she certainly didn’t know which path to take.
When she turned to the left, the group had moved onto that path. When she turned to the right, the group had suddenly appeared on that path. And, when she turned back to the path that lay straight ahead… they were gone!
Standing there in their place were three little gremlins.
“She has the pumpkin!” they all shouted in unison.
“She has the pumpkin!” shouted a bat as it flew across the moon.
“She does indeed have the pumpkin,” said the rabbit watching her from a patch of grass.
“We didn’t see the pumpkin!” said all the goblins that promptly merged together into a cloudy mist and changed into a witch with a broomstick.
“Follow me!” the witch cried aloud.
“Bring the beautiful pumpkin!” another witch with a black cat on her broomstick bellowed loudly.
“You have saved the day!” roared another witch.
And soon the dark forest rang fiercely with the
words, “Saved the day! Saved the day! Saved the day!”
In all the confusion Jessica pulled her wagon and the pumpkin and the candle along the path deeper and deeper into the forest.
“Hurry!” a voice rang out from somewhere.
“Hurry, hurry, hurry, hurry,” other voices joined in and echoed among the tall trees.
Jessica obeyed and in a clearing just ahead she saw a red and orange glow. As she came nearer, she could see a huge pot sitting on a bright fire.
And off to the left was the ugliest jack-o-lantern she had ever seen. Why, she said to herself, it doesn’t even look as though it ever was a pumpkin.
“Hurry!” the voices urged again.
When Jessica appeared in the clearing she could see witches, and goblins, and pixies, and gremlins, and all sorts of creatures gathered around the cauldron. One of the witches was stirring the contents in the huge pot and mumbling something Jessica couldn’t understand. Three more witches stood over another cauldron mumbling as well, as one of them read from an old, crinkle-paged book.
“Nothing we do seems to work,” they were saying to one another.
“Halloween will be ruined and all the children will be without protection that night if we can’t revive our pumpkin,” said another witch bent over another pot on another fire. “Or, unless we somehow manage to receive a new pumpkin from someone, somewhere.”
Jessica stopped there and looked around. She was about to speak when a voice coming from a witch’s head hovering over the group stopped her.
“You have brought a new pumpkin,” the witch said to Jessica.
“I, ah, I mean, I didn’t…” Jessica was too frightened to continue.
“Well, speak up, child! Did you or did you not bring us a new pumpkin for Halloween night?”
Jessica was even more scared than before and was unable to say a word. The witch standing close to her whispered, “You must say yes, my dear. We can’t use a pumpkin to make into a magical jack-o-lantern to protect the children on the frightening Halloween evening unless it has been freely given to us. You see?”
Jessica didn’t see. Not at all. Her small legs were trembling and she grasped the handle of her wagon with such force that it almost came off into her hand. If they wanted her pumpkin why didn’t they just take it? Certainly they had enough creatures in that clearing to do just about anything they wanted to.
Then the witch whispered to Jessica again. “No, my dear, our magical potions will only work with what has been happily donated to our yearly project.”
“But, I thought witches were evil and goblins even worse,” Jessica was finally able to say.
“You are quite right,” the witch answered. “But there are also good witches, and what you see here tonight are not goblins, they are hobgoblins. They were created centuries ago to keep sick children company, taking them on fantastic adventures, while at the same time driving away fever and pains.
“They spend most of their time in kitchens, watching over new bread and keeping babies from harm.
“And the pixies and fairies and all the creatures you have met this day, practice protection for children who wander about on Halloween night.”
“Oh, my,” Jessica said. “I didn’t know.”
“Well,” the witch’s head floating above said, “Now you do know. You were supposed to come into our forest on your way to market so we could explain all this to you. “But, you never appeared and that is why we were all concerned. It will soon be Halloween night, you know?”
Jessica nodded. She certainly did know that Halloween was fast approaching and it was proving to be the eeriest one of all she had experienced in her young life.
“Then I will gladly give you my pumpkin to be made into a pretty jack-o-lantern to protect the children on Halloween night!” she declared.
“She made a decision!” the hobgoblins sang out. “She made a decision!” the witches all said.
“Decision, decision, decision,” all the others chimed in.
“And I’ve also decided what I want to be when I grow up!” Jessica shouted.
“What? What? What? What?” came questions from everyone.
Jessica hesitated for a moment and then began to sing in her cheeriest voice:
♫When I grow up I want to be a witch,
I want to be a witch; I want to be a witch! When I grow up I want to be a witch. Which witch? It really doesn’t matter. ♫
And soon everyone was joining Jessica singing her song, as some of the witches prepared the magic potion to be added to the jack-o-lantern as soon as the other witches finished carving a very happy face.
♫When I grow up I want to be a witch, I want to be a witch; I want to be a witch! When I grow up I want to be a witch.
Which witch? It really doesn’t matter. ♫
And Jessica joyfully added:
♫ “As long as it’s a GOOD witch…
… it really doesn’t matter
at all!” ♫
Read Aloud Series
Books for Children