Ghastly Ghosts

Albert Whitman. Sept. 2019. 32p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780807528648.
Gr 1-3–Dave, a gentle man with a white beard, moves into his deceased uncle’s cabin and finds it a lonely place. He soon hears moans, groans, and wails, noises that he attributes to mice or drafty windows. However, voices shrieking “Ghastly ghosts in the old coal shed!” are harder to explain away. Lamug’s artwork does a marvelous job of showing scenes that are off-kilter on one page and then normal the next. For instance, the tilted windows and open door of the dilapidated old coal shed give it a menacing visage the closer Dave gets to revealing its secrets, but the shed looks normal once the ghosts inside are revealed to be just as lonely as the man himself. The text seems to be a hair smaller than in many picture books for this age group, and it is tucked away in the beams of the cabin, the sloped ceiling of the attic, and in the pale yellow glow of the moon. The small size and location of the text practically dares readers to lean in closer to the artwork, making it all the more jarring when a large, bold, stylized typeface is suddenly used to convey the ghosts’ shrieks. Text placing is spot-on throughout, up until the last page where the text subtly leads readers’ eyes to the coal shed, no longer looking carnivorous. The final scene is heartwarming with Dave and the ghosts enjoying a fun time by the fire, lonely souls who have found one another.
VERDICT Bateman plays with the frightening horror tropes of isolation and creepy old cabins but gives them a child-friendly spin in the end. Recommended for anyone who wants an eerie tale with a cheery ending.

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