Home for the Howl-idays: Jumanji for Monster Lovers

September 14, 2021 — Home for the Howl-idays is the story of step-siblings Sam and Leesha as they return home from boarding school for Christmas break to find their family has turned into the Munsters. Dad’s a vampire, mom’s a mummy, little brother’s a werewolf, granny’s a ghost…and their transmogrified family wants to monsterize Sam and Leesha, too…into a skeleton and a witch, respectively.

The book was written by Diane Curtis Regan and published in 1994 as one of those Scholastic Apple paperbacks that were everywhere in the 1990s (the line included the Babysitter’s Club books). By the way, none of that information is from my head. I was in high school in 1994. So the first time I ever heard about this book was a week ago browsing a used bookstore the size of a bedroom. That cover dropped my jaw to the floor like it wasn’t held on by muscle and flesh.

I mean, look at it. With all seven of your eyes. It’s a Norman Rockwell painting with monsters. Read that bizarre tagline: “The stockings were hung by the chimney—with hair.” Witness how restrained the depiction of Christmas is compared to how we would do it now, where we would goop on the garland and lights and snow.


And that latter is accurate to the story because Home for the Howl-idays doesn’t feel like a Christmas book. It feels like a Halloween book. And a big part of that is because not only have the family gone all living Halloween costumes, the Christmas decorations have, too. The trees are draped in black ornaments, the rooms strung with black lights. It’s similar to how we decorate for Halloween these days.

The book is stranger than just the concept of finding out your family could get into Universal Studios for free, though. For instance, you immediately learn that these kids are massively rich. Like disappointed that their chauffeur didn’t pick them up from the train station rich. Like dollar-sign-shaped door knocker rich. Like ice sculptures at every family dinner rich. Like shop at the most expensive stores rich. Like butler and maid rich (who, by the way, have also been turned into monsters—Frankenstein and a zombie).

Sure, the Addams family were rich. They had Frankenstein butler. Desk drawers full of cash. But in this book, the reliance on wealth is so blatant and so immediate, and the level of spoilage of the kids so apparent, that my assumption was it was going to be part of some moral in the story.


The wealth is only there for narrative purposes. It’s 100% in the book so that the kids could live in a mansion based on a board game. And that’s probably the strangest part of the book and what made me fall in love with it.

The family got rich because their grandfather invented a board game about monsters. That’s it. It’s called Run for Your Life, and it seems to be a combination of Clue and Magic: The Gathering. For it, you play one of six classic monsters and try to make it to each room in the mansion safely before a stronger monster sends you back. In fact, the mansion that they live in was built to look like the mansion in the board game that made them rich in the first place.

And Regan admirably wrings everything she possibly can from this concept. Life-sized statues of each monster can be found in every room. The ice sculpture centerpieces are based on the board game. They have licensed merchandise (Sam wears monster-branded pajamas). And this was all true before they became monsters.

So maybe that’s the moral. An entire family dominated by a single board game suddenly becomes that board game. Eh, I still don’t see a moral. Which is how I want all my kids’ books to be.

Turns out, the evil wizard who is also the ultimate bad guy in the board game is behind the change. And it’s here where I have to critique the book a bit. Regan never really came up with a reason why the Evil Wizard came to life and starting turning the family into monsters from the game. She half-suggests a couple of unsatisfactory ideas (faulty wiring or the presence of so many of the games in the mansion). But that’s fine. You can read the book in under an hour and it's a delightful experience. You won’t be ticked if she had to stop figuring out the plot because she had to chuck it at her publisher in a panic to hit a deadline.

In fact, I loved it enough that I want to read another of her books: The Vampire Who Came Home for Christmas.