Cyrus pens a collection sure to make the most poetry-averse at least smile if not laugh out loud.
A redheaded boy walks through a graveyard pondering the stories of those whose gravestones he passes. A lost ghost dog accompanies him. Each droll poem has an element of the absurd, ludicrous or revolting. Whether the rhyming verse describes a skeleton obsessed with flossing his every bone or chants about Freddie, who picked his nose so much he died, Scrambly cleverly illustrates each unfortunate specter with a style reminiscent of Edward Gorey’s. The backgrounds have a textured look and set off what looks like pen-and-ink drawings with mostly white fill. In the case of “McBuck Buck,” the blue-gray wash of color represents “a pool of community drool.” Even a familiar childhood rhyme provides inspiration: “Hoofprints. Feathers. Piles of dung! / Who is laid below? / Mysterious letters mark the stone: / EIEIO.” As the two wander, it is clear that the ghost pup and narrator are not terribly compatible. Eventually, they come across ghostly Ophelia Heft, who beckons to her dog from the clouds. By the book’s conclusion, though, the boy finds a new canine companion, orphaned when venal Mrs. McBride passed on.
The author’s sly humor coupled with the illustrator’s whimsically dark details will surely have primary-grade readers cackling. (Picture book/poetry. 5-8)