Ghosts by Sonia Goldie / Illustrated by Marc Boutavant
This was entirely not what I expected. Large and slim like a picture book, Ghosts features ghosts that are arguably, adorable. Visually, they resemble balloon animals and cuddly toys, a bit transparent and puffy around the edges, but definitely zoological in appearance.
But the writing is something else entirely. This is not meant as a read aloud for the littles, no matter what the cover and shape might indicate. Inside are mini biographies of a wide variety of ghosts. They are reasonably dense and complex, likely on a second or beginning of third grade reading level. Which is just as well, because these ghosts are a bit creepy.
While the illustrations do much to add levity and diffuse fear, the ghosts will nonetheless cause some younger readers distress. Quite frequently the book explains that ghosts are right next to you, whether it be while you watch tv, or lurking in your bathroom, sitting beside you at the dinner table, or hiding under your bed waiting to slip into your nightmares. Goldie has also placed ghosts into your garage, your washing machine, the telephone, your basement…basically we’re looking at a situation where if your child is easily spooked, that child will never walk around your house alone again.
The writing is quite clever and some things did make me laugh, like the ghost of gray days making you grumpy unless you get up and do something. The real question is trying to find the right target audience. I would say this is absolutely a book that requires that you know your reader.
Age Recommendation: Grades 2-4. I think some second and third grade readers might appreciate the clever actions of the ghosts without being too afraid of them. Obviously, you know your reader the best, so judge accordingly. I would caution librarians and teachers from suggesting this for readers (or listeners) in Grades 2 or lower unless they know the reader in question is comfortable with this type of material. I actually think fourth graders might enjoy the playfulness of this and it would make a fun writing activity to have them create their own ghost and devise a bio for it.
Sex, Nudity, Dating – None.
Profanity – None.
Death, Violence and Gore – There are ghosts, but actually death is never mentioned in conjunction with them.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – None.
Frightening or Intense Things – The pictures mitigate things somewhat, but some of the ghost descriptions lean creepy rather than harmless or humorous.