Some historical figures’ spirits gather for a Halloween gala.
“In New Orleans on Halloween night, / the dearly departed sway in the moonlight. / They gather their bones and they set ’em just right. / The cemetery jamboree starts tonight!” This refrain appears between each newcomer to the party, though its odd scansion and wordiness may mean that listeners still won’t be able to chime in even after the seventh iteration. Louis Armstrong is the first to arrive, trumpet in hand. Next comes singer Mahalia Jackson. The verse highlights her angel wings, but these aren’t recognizable in the artwork until subsequent spreads. Marie Laveau, with a book of spells, is followed by Andrew Jackson, ordering his troops to search for the “souls of lost men.” Jean Lafitte and Huey P. Long round out the participants. Thomas’ cut-paper–collage artwork is full of textures and patterns but not detail, and her skeletons lack any real spark of personality, distinguished mainly by their props. But the greatest weakness of the book is its failure to bring history to life for its audience—there are no notes explaining who these six figures were or how they are connected to New Orleans. The author’s note tells where they are buried—most not in New Orleans—but not how or why New Orleans “is a city that beckons to the core of their existence.”
Even New Orleanians will want to let this rest in peace. (Picture book. 4-7)