“All Hallows Eve” tells the story of the Halloween Fairy (the one who exchanges the candy for a toy)

Each year a few parents write to me about the Halloween Fairy — that benevolent sprite who exchanges the candy haul for a toy or some money. It's a win-win (as long as the "fairy" doesn't eat all of the candy, ahem). I got this lovely note from Lisa Johnson, author of All Hallows Eve: The Story of the Halloween Fairy. I read the story online and loved it. Perfect for new trick-or-treaters, and fun to read every year.

Here's my hack – we steal my kids' Halloween candy and say a fairy did it. What's more, they're psyched about it! In all honesty, we're not the only people who do this, but we are the only people who have written a book about it, and made it available for free online (or, of course, for purchase from Amazon, B&N, or your favorite neighborhood independent bookstore).

The book is All Hallows Eve: The Story of the Halloween Fairy. Read it online, or better yet, let me read it to you! Our book also provides toddler- appropriate answers for the unending stream of toddler/preschool questions (why do we dress up? why say trick or treat? what's with all the lit pumpkins?). I mean, Feast of the Dead explanations are ok for some kids, but I noticed on your site some questions about how to introduce little ones to the holiday…

We love it, we've gotten some nice reviews, kids love it (we're starting a new site next year called "The Once Upon A Times" in newspaper format to publish all the add-on stories kids send us), and we hope you like it, too!

To read the book online, or to print out some adorable coloring pages, visit: Positive Spin Press: All Hallows Eve

Win it! One lucky Parenthacker will win a signed copy of All Hallows Eve! Just answer the following question in the comments:

What is your favorite no- to low-effort Halloween costume? Boy, girl, kid, adult, whatever.

I'll pick a random winner tomorrow (10/18/08) in the 8pm PST range. Good luck!

More: Easy Halloween tips


  1. Daffodil says

    My favorite no-effort adult costume is: Beat Poet. You dress up in all black. Wear low black shoes, like flats. Pull your hair back in a low ponytail (if applicable). Wear a black beret, but only if you have one. Pout a lot. Snap your fingers when you want to indicate enthusiasm. And use all your pretentious vocabulary words.


  2. Marla says

    Favorite Low-Effort Costume: If little one has one of those popular fruit/vegetable hats (apple, pumpkin, etc.), just add clothes of the same color.

  3. Barb says

    Gotta love the black cat. All black clothing, a little face paint for the nose and whiskers, and a kitty ear headband.

  4. Beth A. says

    I have to go with FARMER. Jeans, any shirt will do (I like the button up flannel for a “dressed up farmer look), cowboy hat (or baseball cap if there’s no cowboy hat in your house), and boots. These are all things in our house. :) Add a horse on a stick and you’ve instantly become a cowboy!

  5. Anissa says

    My fav is taking mini cereal boxes and attaching them to your shirt and sticking plastic knives through them. (Cereal Killer) ;)

  6. divrchk says

    I would have to say that at this time of year a farmer is easy with jeans and a button down and hay everywhere.

  7. Mandy says

    My daughter dresses like daddy going to work…daddy’s dress clothes keep her extra warm – a tie and his computer bag is used to collect candy :)

  8. Meg says

    I bought the skeleton PJ’s from gap, which http://www.rookiemoms.com suggested. It does double duty as they go into the jammie drawer after Halloween. Similar – wear jammies, slippers, robe, messy hair and sleep mask around neck. Carry a coffee mug. Just out of bed – now that’s scary.

  9. Ashley says

    I love the plain old Ghost. White sheet is all that is needed and it is just so classic, love it.

  10. Debi says

    My daughter has a mouth full of crowns, so she can’t eat most of the candy she brings home from trick-or-treating. What we do is BUY the candy she can’t eat (Tootsie Rolls, Starburst, gum…) and then she gets to take that money to get herself a nice toy. This year we might channel it to a trip to Chuck E. Cheese.

  11. Lindsay Lebresco (Graco) says

    Best no effort when I had an infant at Halloween – an oversized chicken bib. Done and done.

  12. monica says

    Best easy costume is to wear your pajamas & go as a sleepy mom! Its comfy & you get to wear your slippers!

  13. Nancy says

    I’m a fan of the farmer too. When I was a kid I dressed like a “hobo” a lot but I supposed that’s not exactly PC anymore.

  14. Andrea says

    My favorite, for an adult, is a tampon. All you need is poster board (oaktag) paper, cotton balls and string. Secure the cotton balls to the top of your head, wrap your body in the posterboard paper, and hang a string out the bottom. Sounds gross, but it is hilarious.

  15. Meerkat says

    Green hat + orange PJs = Pumpkin And if you’re feeling wild, throw on jeans and a flannel shirt to be the farmer who grew the pumpkin. :)

  16. Holly says

    Fav low maintenance costume: Black-eyed Pea. Cut out a big “P” and attach it to the front of your shirt. Draw black circles around the eyes and fill in with makeup. Done!!

    (Have to say that the Cereal Killer is brilliant. Might be doing that next year!!)

  17. Susan says

    My mother-in-law’s favorite low budget costume for my husband (when he was little) was a bum. Some makeup on the face, old clothes and a stick with a bandana tied on the end. Maybe not the most politically correct, but it’s easy!
    Great giveaway, thanks!!!

  18. tracy says

    low effort costume for a little girl is a kitty cat – black leotard with black tights, paint on some whiskers. You can make some ears and a tail and that’s it.

  19. Kim says

    In years where we have El Nino (you know, the weather system that dumps lots of rain here in California), I like to put my hair up in pigtails, suck on a pacifier, put on a rain poncho, and carry around a spray bottle to mist people with water. I’m El Nino! I think this might be even better on a little kid.

  20. Awesome Mom says

    Last year I dressed my toddler as a garden gnome. I found a really easy pattern for a cone hat and then dressed him in solid colored clothing. A surprising number of people actually figured it out even though he did not have a beard of any kind.

  21. Jen says

    My 1.5 year old daughter is going to wear a child’s size pair of scrubs that she has (her daddy is a nurse). We’re going to pull her around in a wagon with her toy doctor’s kit and a bunch of her stuffed animals, each of them bandaged up with gauze. So easy, but with a neat twist!

  22. Elana says

    Mine is a bubble bath (for a girl): pink leotard, pink tights, pin a whole bunch of pink and white balloons all over her. Add an empty soap wrapper and maybe a washcloth to her hair and there ya go.

  23. olegsmom says

    Last year we decided to take the kids to a Fall Festival, and had no costumes, with 5 minutes notice. We put them both in tank tops, with unbuttoned Hawaiian shirts over them, wild print swim trunks, and loud ‘fishing’ hats they had in their playclothes trunk. Put a cheap plastic lei on each, and they went as tourists. Comfy, quick, no makeup required, and the boys thought it was very silly and fun.

  24. Jill in Atlanta says

    I wore all white, he wore all black. I took white paper and made a ‘P’ with glue and covered it with pepper, then took black paper and made an ‘S’ with salt. Lazy as they come.

  25. Ticia says

    Here’s a variation of what we’re doing for my daughter:
    Get a hoodie in a dog like color, attach ears to it using scrap cloth, and then a tail with more scrap cloth. Paint her nose brown, and you have an adorable puppy.
    Of course I’m making it harder by making the hoody, but the principle still stands.

  26. Lisa J. says

    One year my husband won his work costume contest by taping smarties all over his jeans. Smartie pants.

  27. Regifter says

    It seemed like every year my mom dressed me as a gypsy: skirt, shirt, boots, hair in braids, scarves (one on my head and one around my waist or neck), lotsa jewelry (big hoop earrings), and a a bit of lipstick on the lips and cheeks.

  28. kirsten says

    See, I’m all about putting effort into costumes – such fun for me! So I’ve never really done an effortless one… oh, except for having my mom make them for me a few years! Yup, that was easy.

    Anyway, this hack is interesting, because we do it, too – but for food allergy reasons. Since my gluten-free/dairy-free/peanut-free/dye-free kiddo can’t have very much from his trick or treat bag, we let all the kids pick out some favorites and leave the rest out for the’Great Pumpkin’ who brings them a toy the next day. The kids love it.

  29. alianora says

    In my house, the costume that involves the least effort is Han Solo. Black jeans with a red ribbon down the side, button down white shirt, black vest that Ive had for years, and my husband’s original vintage Han Solo blaster. :)

  30. Shannon says

    One year I had to go out on Halloween unexpectedly. I was costume-less, but said I was “Trouble” when asked. I met my husband that night!

  31. Monera Mason says

    I have two girls and they went as each other, it was confusing at the door, but they thought it was fun to wear each others clothing.

  32. Mary A says

    One of my favorite costumes as a child was a bee: yellow leotard and tights with a few black stripes, a cone on my bum for a stinger, and wings made out of contact paper.

  33. kj says

    My favorite (easy) costume for our son has been him dressing up as a hunter. My husband hunts and gets him all the gear (ie camo pants, shirts, jackets, hats, etc.)
    No guns or weapons are ever involved in this costume. A duck call and decoy make the costume every year.

  34. Liz says

    We’re new to the dress up, so I’ll have to say a ghost. Maybe with time we’ll get better at this!

  35. Katherine Lally says

    My favorite last minute, low frills costume was when I took wire hangers and made a globe out of it, put paper mache over top, cut a circle to see out of and then put on my pajamas and robe … and I was a Lazy Eye. Bahahahahaha!

  36. Vivian says

    This may not work in warmer climates but in the northwest this works. Just wear a pair of sunglasses. When someone ask you what your supposed to be say “On Vacation.” I know it’s pretty cheesy but I like to dress up for Halloween so my families costumes are usually imagined if not completed well in advanced.

  37. Mindy says

    If you have a white sheet with a hole in it from last year when you were a ghost… make the hole big enough for your head to fit through (if not already). Put on a yellow beanie/hat and paint your face bright yellow. You’re a FRIED EGG!

  38. amanda says

    One year my husband and I split a pair of camouflage fatigues. I wore the top with a name tag that said, “upper GI” and he wore the bottoms with “lower GI” for a namE tag.

    It was a big hit.

  39. erika says

    We opted for no-frills with our 2-y-o girl last year. She wanted to be a fairy, so I got a long frilly summer dress from a clearance rack, layered with a white long sleeve shirt and tights from her closet, and added a wand and glittery wings from a drug store. She felt like a fairy and looked adorable, and the total cost was a fraction of buying a “real” costume!

  40. Heidi says

    For an adult: fill a squirt gun with tequila, throw a poncho on and tell people you are a Tequila Shooter. Bonus: liquor on demand.

  41. Christel says

    A friend’s nephew went last year as a glob of chewing gum: pink sweats, and a shoe tied on top of his head.

  42. Zed says

    We’re going as Hawaiians this year. The whole family just needs Hawaiian shirts or fabric tied into a lava lava. A bead necklace or ukelele help too, and those can be borrowed very easily. Easy costume. Not terribly exciting, but 6 of us as the same thing will be pretty fun.

  43. Paige says

    I love this-so many good EASY ideas!-maybe I can get away from my standard costume. Black outfit, witch hat. Pathetic, but super easy…especially since I always have a pair of black pants/black top or a black dress, and I just keep using the same witch hat year to year!

  44. Joyous says

    Bag of trash: cut arm and leg holes in a garbage bag, have your kid step in, fill it with crumpled newspaper, gather round the neck with tape. Tie or barrette another piece of paper to the top of their head, and off you go!

  45. Cindi says

    Hello! What an adorable book. my son has gone as a hobo that his grandma told him about. They used to come to her door and ask for for food. She would make a sandwich and they would be on their way. He takes baggy pants, a torn shirt and tattered jacket. Smudges of dirt are on his face and a stick with a hobo bag {kerchief). Thanks, Cindi

  46. Thien-Kim says

    When we were in college, we always crossed-dressed. Easy Halloween costume. Just borrowed a friend’s clothes. The boys always did look a bit scary as girls.

  47. wendy says

    my husband loves his soccer jersey as a halloween costume — add some face paint and he’s a hooligan. He was planning to dress the baby up in the same kit until I convinced him that a pumpkin or something cuter might be more appropriate for the wee one.

  48. Mara Collins says

    My boys came up with the no effort ninja costume, black turtleneck, black sweatpants and inside out black t-shirt over their heads with the neckhole opening at their eyes, the sleeves tied behind their heads.

  49. evelyn says

    My easy costume this year is a “deviled egg”. Black shirt with a fabric egg fused on (big white circle, smaller yellow circle on top), and a devil-horn headband. It’s a great low-fuss outfit that my little one (2.5) can wear to daycare and still do normal activities without it getting in the way.

  50. marylea @ pinkandgreenmama says

    I like to dress as a “mom” or you can put a roll of paper towels on a string and wear it as a necklace…you’re a “bounty hunter”

    Stop by my blog and pick up the award I gave you when you get a chance!

  51. JenN says

    My 6yo son decided to be a firefighter this year. He’s wearing the firehat from the dressup box, with his bright yellow rainsuit and black rainboots. How easy!

  52. Laree says

    For little bald babies: yellow shirt w/ a zig zag on bottom, and a sharpie curlie q on thier head (charlie brown).

    My favorite pregant one: My friend wore a white dress with a beauty queen type sash that said “fertility fairy” and put glitter in her hair.

  53. Alexandra Hancock says

    This year we bought Lucian a $1.00 lion mask from Target and he is wearing all brown/tan clothing to match. How easy is that?!