Carl's Halloween

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
Carl's Halloween Book Poster Image
Dog pulls another fast one in fun trick-or-treating jaunt.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Shows the trick-or-treating ritual and typical Halloween costumes and party games.

Positive Messages

Share with others in need. When a woman answers her door to Carl and the girl and tells them she has no candy to give out this year, he gives her his full basket, and she says, "Thank you, Carl. Now I will be able to make the trick-or-treaters happy!"

Positive Role Models & Representations

Carl is kind and responsible as he cares for Madeleine. He checks the clock at the party and sees it's 7:45 -- time to go home. And he's generous to a woman who has no candy to give out, offering her the basketful he's collected. Madeleine is gentle and well-behaved. Her mom is kind to go help Grandma, but it's a bit weird that she leaves her toddler in the care of a dog to open the door and hand out candy to trick-or-treaters. Of course, leaving Carl in charge is the premise of this successful series. And the other adult characters don't blink at the notion when the two show up at their door or come to the party unattended.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Carl's Halloween is a seasonal installment in the popular, nearly wordless series about Carl the Rottweiler, who has a surprising number of opportunities to take care of toddler Madeleine (we know her name from other books) when Mom goes out. Series fans have seen him be her babysitter in all sorts of settings, including a dog show, and here he takes her trick-or-treating. (Parents, don't try this at home!) But they always get back safe and sound, and Mom is none the wiser -- much to the delight of young readers. 

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What's the story?

It's Halloween night, and Madeleine's mom announces she has to go help Grandma for a little while. "You can hand out candy to any children who come," she tells Madeleine and Carl, the big, responsible Rottweiler. As soon as Mom's gone, the two dress up (Carl in a beaded necklace, the girl in a feathered sun hat), stash the candy bowl on the porch, and head out to trick-or-treat carrying a basket and plastic pumpkin for their loot. At one house, a woman says she wasn't able to get any candy this year, so Carl gives her his full basket. They end up at a Halloween party, and Carl gets wrapped like a mummy and then bobs for apples before Madeleine rides him home like a horse and they arrive just before Mom -- so their secret is safe.

Is it any good?

This fun story of a secret adventure is similar to the other Carl books but has the added appeal of Halloween candy and costumes. The retro watercolors give it a timeless feel (though we do see the mom on a cell phone), as do the kid's classic costume choices such as witch, ghost, bumblebee, ladybug, tiger, scarecrow, and firefighter. 

Parents may feel a bit uncomfortable seeing a dog as a babysitter, roaming the streets at night, not to mention deceiving the trusting (clueless) mother. But kids will eat up CARL'S HALLOWEEN.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about caretaking dogs. Does Carl have anything in common with a seeing-eye dog?

  • What's fun about the Carl books? Is it the art? The way you can tell a story with almost no words? How Carl and Madeleine have adventures on their own and manage to stay safe? 

  • Do you have a dog that seems like a true friend or even like a parent who takes care of you?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love Halloween

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