A good old-fashioned ghost story sure to deliver spine tingles.

An illustrated ghost story set in Bay de Verde, Newfoundland.

Inspired by a story told to the author by a longtime Bay de Verde resident about an event his mother experienced when she was a child of 6, this spooky tale skillfully layers atmosphere and pacing. On a windy November evening in 1922, siblings Theresa, 4, Bridie, 6, and John, 8, huddle on a daybed in their Newfoundland kitchen, which is lit by a single kerosene lantern. It is an hour past their bedtime, and they are half-hiding in the shadows because they want to hear the ghost stories the adults tell after their everyday news is finished. The tales begin, and the children shiver deliciously. Then unexpected—but familiar—footsteps are heard, and ghosts become more than just stories. Cotter’s tale harks back to an age when visiting was the activity and stories were the entertainment, so despite its skillful suspense, it manages to also convey a restful interlude. Dwyer’s shadowy double-page spreads evoke the mysterious as they juxtapose the swirling smoke of wraiths with realistic renderings of the people. Some illustrations work better than others, as when a facial expression looks less like a frozen photograph and more like an evocative moment; but in all, the tone, mood, and atmosphere of the story are scrumptiously spooky. The people depicted are shown as white.

A good old-fashioned ghost story sure to deliver spine tingles. (Picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: June 30, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-927917-28-2

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Running the Goat

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020


From the Fitz and Cleo series , Vol. 1

Cute as a boo-ton—if a tad stereotypical.

Ghost siblings ghoul it up in a new graphic-novel series.

A “THUMP” from the attic sends siblings Fitz and Cleo up to investigate. The spooky vibes delight Cleo, so she improvises “The Spooky Attic Song.” Fitz tries to shush his sister so they can maintain “the element of surprise” as they approach the sound’s source. The mystery is solved: It’s a cat! Cleo promptly scoops the (seemingly mortal) cat up and names him Mister Boo. Fitz has reservations but relents when Mister Boo sits on his head. Ten subsequent chapters, varying between four and seven pages in length, chronicle the trio’s further shenanigans. Husband-and-wife team Stutzman and Fox create an entertaining early graphic novel in the vein of Ben Clanton’s Narwhal and Jelly series. Though there are occasional speech bubbles, dialogue is most often connected to the speaker by a solid black line. Sentences are short, and there are at most two speakers per panel. Additionally, with no more than six panels per page and simple backgrounds, the story provides adequate support to emerging readers. Fox’s expressive illustrations and clever use of panel layouts effectively build off the humor in Stutzman’s text. Cleo is depicted with a purple bow; Fitz with a baseball cap and glasses. Unfortunately, their personalities as well as their appearances play into gender stereotypes.

Cute as a boo-ton—if a tad stereotypical. (Graphic fantasy. 6-10)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-23944-0

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021


From the Monster and Boy series , Vol. 1

No need to be afraid of monsters after reading this sweet and unusual friendship story.

A boy discovers that monsters are real—and that one lives under his bed.

The monster and the boy—no names given—share a bedroom, but they have never met. The monster is nocturnal and has lived under the boy’s bed for many years; he knows the sound of the boy’s voice and loves the smell of his dirty socks. One night the boy’s mother reads her son a book about monsters, and she tells him that there is no such thing as monsters. Knowing this is untrue, the monster decides to introduce himself. Predictably, this doesn’t go as well as the monster expects, and when the boy screams, the monster swallows him in a panic. This is distressing for both the monster (who just lost his only friend) and the boy (who now finds himself trapped inside a stomach). Eventually the monster coughs the boy out—only to discover the boy is now grasshopper-sized. Humor ensues. In archly amusing fashion, the author breaks the fourth wall—this is marked by teal-colored page backgrounds—reassuring readers during potentially scary parts of the book, filling in background details, or collegially including them in aspects of the storytelling. Teal-flecked grayscale cartoons appear on almost every page, making this a solid choice for new independent readers. As depicted on the cover, the boy has tightly coiled brown curls and pink skin.

No need to be afraid of monsters after reading this sweet and unusual friendship story. (Fantasy. 6-9)

Pub Date: July 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21783-7

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Godwin Books

Review Posted Online: April 7, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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