Reviewed by Patrica Simms-Reeve
For generations, children have been thrilled by the stories from classics such as those by the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen. Some of these classics are macabre, cruel, and bloodthirsty. Mostly, they are dark tales that don’t conclude with the clichéd ‘happy ending’.
Oliver Jeffers’s latest book, designed for the very young, can boast at least one ghost on every page, but these little spooks are teasingly invisible to the solitary little girl, playing their ghostly games while she feels convinced that her house is haunted. We, the readers, can see them as we turn a page but she fails to actually catch sight of them. They peek from hiding places, perch in unlikely spots, hidden from her, but not from the reader.
Alternate pages are transparent, so more fragile than usual. As these are superimposed on a room, we see the white figures with their two holes for eyes. The format encourages a carer/parent to find time to enjoy reading it with a child. It’s a great opportunity to model and encourage respect and care in handling a book which can be a challenge for an enthusiastic little reader!
At the same time, an adult’s or older sibling’s dramatic reading will add spine tingling pleasure…
The small child, a girl, is in magical colours, with blue hair, green face and bright yellow striped dress. She is drawn in a charming, child-like style, which Oliver Jeffers has perfected over his career. His skill as an illustrator nonetheless is obvious with all the backgrounds of the house. He incorporates photographs of old interiors, one from the late eighteenth century, with his child-like additions, to portray a stunning old mansion, dark and mysterious. The shades of black, grey and white make it deeply atmospheric and suit the story of the elusive spirits beautifully. It is spooky in a clever but not too scary way. The haunting is made to be fun for the young reader….
One of the most engaging aspects of the book is the little girl’s interacting with her reader. She is puzzled by her conviction that the place is haunted by at least one ghost so earnestly seeks some answers from her reader. This would be a hit with a three-year-old….
Meanwhile, the tantalising little ghosts lightheartedly evade being spotted.
Both the front and back covers are of the mansion’s exterior, with the front stormy and threatening and the back is a gloomy night with a few stars and sliver of a moon, which sets the scene so beautifully.
There’s a Ghost in this House is very special – a splendid example of excellence in children’s books. The unusual design, the theme that is so widely appealing, the wonderful illustrations make it one to treasure.
Oliver Jeffers is regarded as an exceptional writer. His work has been displayed in museums and galleries across the world. Born in Ireland, he now lives in the USA. His acclaimed picture books have sold 14,000,000 copies and been translated into over fifty languages. Multi-talented, he explores various themes with a gentle humour, in his books, painting, collage, even performance.
His latest offering is funny, entertaining and sure to increase a child’s love of books and reading.
There’s a Ghost in this House
by Oliver Jeffers
ISBN 978 00082 9835 7