Monday, August 22, 2011

REVIEW: Ten Timid Ghosts by Jennifer O’Connell

My son loves Halloween and he's at that age where the scary stuff thrills. Last year, he was crazy over Rattlebone Rock by Sylvia Andrews and Jennifer Plecas - I can't recall the number of times I've had to read the book until we finally returned it to the library! You can read the review here.

I have a whole pile of used Scholastic books (among other publishers) for preschool children set up in a tiny bookshelf in the hall - the kids love browse through the books. When they find a book they like, they run over, demanding for a read-aloud session.

"Ten Timid Ghosts" begins with a witch moving into a haunted house occupied by ten, well, timid ghosts. Since ten's a company and eleven's a crowd (?), the witch plans to scare each ghost out of the house. And so the countdown begins with the creative witch dressing up in different scary costumes to scare each individual ghost.

Repetition and rhyme make this story easy to read:
Ten timid ghosts in a haunted house,
A witch moved in and wanted them out,
One (got scared by whatever costume the witch had on)
And then there were (nine, eight, seven and so on).
Since I've already read the book for more than ten times (and counting), I want to thank Jennifer O'Connell, the author and illustrator, for an excellent rhyme! I'm still not tired of reading the book yet as the words just roll off the tongue.

Initially, I worried that the little boy might get scared of the witch with the greenish tinge but he wasn't spooked. He didn't bat an eyelash either at the ghoul, monster or mummy costumes. In fact, he had some feedback on the artwork:
"That is not an owl! That looks like an eagle because the owl's mouth (beak) is like this (uses both hands to make the shape of triangle), not like this (a curved beak). And the owl's eyes are big and round like this (opens his eyes as wide as he could for full effect).."
I have to agree with him on the above point because the bird did look more like an eagle or even a crow. You can check out the "owl" yourself here on her website. Since Jennifer O'Connell's intention was to have the kids "in on the 'secret' at the beginning", maybe this was intentional? Maybe the old witch didn't own a real owl, she only had access to a crow?

What's a mother to do? Praise him for his sharp observation and move on to the next page...

Of course, he had more to say and here, I know for sure that the author and illustrator drew it that way because kids reading the book know that they are not real ghouls, monsters or vampires - it's the witch dressing up. This is in keeping with the spirit of Halloween at a level acceptable for young children.

You see, he was slightly puzzled when he spotted the witch wearing earrings in vampire costume:
  • Wasn't the vampire a man?
  • What was he doing with earrings?
  • Also, why were there a box of powder, a bottle of tomato ketchup and other "strange" things on the chair next to him?
After a few readings, he deduced that the witch used the props to make herself look like a vampire.

I thought it's great that he now knows powder is used to whiten the face while tomato ketchup looks like bloooooood on the vampire's fangs. Now that he's at that age of teasing his little sister (who is thrilled to bits each time he chases her or yells "Boo!" or "Aaargh!!!" from behind the chair or curtains), I hope he doesn't get any ideas about using the tomato ketchup from my kitchen...

He was also quite taken by the mummy costume asking questions like "How did the witch make the costume?" (I said toilet paper.) And he prodded, "How? How?" I told him that she merely rolled toilet paper all over her body. He's still pondering that process :D

This book has a nice ending with the ten little ghosts banding together to scare the witch and getting their house back. Plus, they open their home to the kids for trick-or-treating on Halloween :D Isn't it a wonderful book?

If you'd like to buy "Ten Timid Ghosts" for a child you know, click here.

About Jennifer O'Connell
She was a middle child of three with an artistic mother and a father who was a natural storyteller.

"Sometimes at bedtime my Dad would solemnly light a pretend fire on the floor of our dark bedroom and tell us a riveting adventure tale as he fanned the flames of the 'campfire'." His deep sense of wonder and unique imagination was a major influence on me. "

Her mother encouraged her in her art and Jennifer always watched her at work when she created Early American folk art projects.

In high school, she took many art classes and created posters for school events and illustrations for the yearbooks. She also worked with children as a counselor and an arts and crafts teacher at a YMCA day camp. She attended Philadelphia College of Art where she majored in Illustration.

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