Sunday, 15 March 2015



Sonia Goldie & Marc Boutavant

Do you think that all ghosts look like white sheets with two black holes for eyes?  Or that they drag around a ball and chain and say ‘Boo!’?  Well, you’d be wrong.  Luckily Ghosts is here to help you explore the incredibly intricate and diverse world of spooks and spectres.  From Smokestack the chimney ghost who once was white but is now covered in soot, to the bathroom ghost who hates water and only finds comfort in his own stench, we are introduced to the many varied phantoms that haunt our houses.  We meet ghosts from the basement all the way up to the attic and every room in between.

Ghosts is not set out like a traditional picture book: it is not a single narrative as we would expect, but many shorter stories which are centred around a common theme.  Stories so short that they are little more than introductions, glimpses into the more fantastical (or should that be phantastcial?) elements of our homes which we overlook. We begin on the very first endpaper page with a ‘ghost’ (white sheet and chains) who meets an actual ghost.  Their conversation plays out over the title page and beyond to establish the environment we are about to enter, an environment which turns out to be extremely every day: one where ghosts inhabit the rooms of our homes.  Each double-page spread is an introduction to a separate ghost and the room where they reside; this is where the book’s charm lies, each ghost is given enough space for their own world to be believably created thanks to the wonderful balance of text and image. 

Sonia Goldie’s text is full of imagination, wit and charm.  Each ghost feels original and unique to its environment, and her details are beautifully observed: The Ghost of the Library is shy and quiet like the readers who visit; The Ghost of Gray Days ‘feels sad and has no interest in anything;’ The Ghost of the Attic is ‘wrinkly yet twinkly’ and our favourite - The Ghost of the Parents’ Bedroom, is nagging and tell-tale.  Readers will continue to find new and enchanting details within the text but we should state that this is a book that will be most enjoyed by slightly older readers.

The illustrations by Marc Boutavant are as essential to this book’s success as the text.  They too are enhanced by the format which allows the text to be carefully and playfully placed as an integral part of the imagery, as words sits on shelves in the library and in place of brickwork in the fireplace.  This gives each page a heightened level of interest.  Boutavant’s illustrations are packed full of unusual characters who are a mix of playful, innocent and devious, while his rooms are cluttered with objects that bring his spaces to life; humour, both gentle and wicked, and a cast of minor characters who are each so consumed in their lives that it feels like the house is alive and breathing.   The ghosts themselves are an exciting mix of massive and ominous, gorgeously transparent and some so small you will have to hunt for them; none are your stereotypical idea of a ghost, and the colour palettes are varied and relevant to each character; all of them as gorgeous as the one before.

Beautiful, engaging and full of character, Ghosts is a book that will require repeat reading simply to absorb all of the glorious details it has to offer.  We haven’t even had time to mention the Garden Ghost or the Ghost of the Night, you’ll just have to read about those yourself…but it might be best to sleep with the light on until then.

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