The Halloween House by Riley Cain with illustrations by various artists
"Have you ever heard the story, Of the werewolf and vampire,
Whose love for one another, Was like a Halloween bonfire?" How about Manky Franky Twinkle Toes, the ballet-dancing monster? Or the Dreadful Ghost Pirate, Jack Slack of Castlebar: "Blown to bits by a cannonball, he resides in a dusty jar."
This book debunks the myth that ragged white articles caught on tree branches are plastic bags. And if you're disappointed to be missing out on the Dublin Marathon this year, you can catch the Hags 100 October broomstick race instead!
If there’s anything we need more of right now, it’s reasons to laugh! The Halloween House, a collection of “31 putrid poems and rotten rhymes for October” is as funny as it is frightening. Sometimes surreal, often rude, but always original and inventive, the rhymes range from the ridiculous to the terrifying. We are introduced to a host of horrifying and memorable new monsters, as well as some more familiar ghoulish rogues.
Vampire-stalking grannies, poker-playing witches, hellish handymen, careless zombies and ghostly body-snatchers are among the terrors lurking inside. Some of the comedy comes from seeing nightmarish creatures engaged in ordinary human activities. In one poem, Dracula is banging on a bathroom door because he needs to use the toilet. In other rhymes, the everyday takes on supernatural qualities in unexpected and inventive ways. There are banshee beauty salons, demon bikers, schools for spectres, and farm animals howling at the moon.
I think my favourite characters are the penny-sweet plundering undead Vikings who have returned to raid Ireland's shores of sugary treats. This verse made me laugh out loud: "Just see how Ivar the Terrible, Charges Ahead of his men so burly, Swinging high his mighty sword, In search of a curly-wurly." Phillip Cullen's accompanying art-work, featuring fearsome warriors wielding axes and lollipops, is hilarious.
All of the illustrations are fabulous and fun, and from nine different artists: Robyn Conroy, Phillip Cullen, Alba Esteban, Mark Joyce, Karen Nolan, Marie O'Riordan, Alexis Sierra, Katya Swan and Úna Woods (author and illustrator of Have You Seen the Dublin Vampire?). Like author Riley Cain, most are Irish, and the rest are based here, making this ideal for supporting Ireland's arts community. I love the self-portraits that accompany each artist's biography at the back of the book.
As the poems are illustrated by different artists, not only do they feel extraordinarily fresh and unique, every page in the book does too. The variety of styles makes the images even more interesting. A spooky border surrounds all the text, specifically tailored to the theme and tone of each poem. Published in a hardback format, this would make a fantastic gift.
The Halloween House is best suited to children aged 9 and upwards. Irish kids will enjoy recognising the locations referenced and adults will enjoy seeing Ireland eerily and entertainingly reinvented. But this is also appropriate for international readers and will be appreciated by anyone with a sense of humour and an affection for All Hallows' Eve!
Title: The Halloween House Author: Riley Cain Illustrators: Robyn Conroy, Phillip Cullen, Alba Esteban, Mark Joyce, Karen Nolan, Marie O'Riordan, Alexis Sierra, Katya Swan and Úna Woods Publisher: Currach Books
Publication Date: October 2020