Caldecott Medalist Rohmann employs a similar artistic style to his award-winning My Friend Rabbit’s as he depicts a young boy’s journey through grief by way of a spooky graveyard on Halloween.
Beloved dog Ella tells Gus under a full moon, “I’m an old dog and won’t be around much longer. But no matter what happens, I’ll always be with you.” Once Ella is gone, Gus mopes. On Halloween he reluctantly goes trick-or-treating, costumed as a skeleton. Heading back home he cuts through the graveyard. Here Rohmann’s hues darken, and Gus looks small and utterly alone. In a quietly dramatic page-turn, Gus is suddenly surrounded by a group of skeletons. Their goofy behavior and wisecracking taunts turn sinister, and soon they close in. The ghost of Ella comes to the rescue, yet she alone cannot save him. “Together will all their might…, boy and dog howled into the night.” A pack of dogs arrives to vanquish the bony bullies in an offstage battle readers see only in hilarious denouement. Gus and Ella cuddle once again. He asks, “Will I see you again?” Ella answers, “A promise made under a full moon cannot be broken.” Here the image of ghostly Ella and skeleton-clad Gus echoes the earlier picture of the two.
Sometimes scary, often funny and ultimately heartwarming, Rohmann’s tale successfully balances a tight text full of tough emotions with clear images of an everlasting friendship. (Picture book. 4-8)