Picture Book Snob
An impressive little witch with irresistible charm
Ghosts in the House! by Kazuno Kohara, Square Fish/Macmillan
What's it about? A little girl moves into an old house, but it's no ordinary home — it's haunted, and this is not a typical little girl — she's a witch! Soon the ghosts are captured and transformed into useful household items. This little witch is practical as well as brave!
What can we learn? Nothing is ever a problem if you can find a different way of approaching it.
What makes this stand out? It's such a clever and funny story, an interesting take on ghosts as well as witches, and the illustrations are fabulous.
About those illustrations...
They're so striking! They appear to be created using stamps to print the images on the page. Everything is black and orange except the opaque ghosts who look like they've been pasted on with thin white tissue paper. The ghosts really pop from the page and the combination of collage and print is incredibly attractive and visually interesting.
Why we love it...
Ghosts in the House! was named a best illustrated children’s book of 2008 by the New York Times and this simple and playful story hooks readers from the start. It's one of my favourite children's books and always makes me smile. It's hard to explain exactly why, but I feel it's picture book perfection. I think it's probably because of how fresh and original it is and how it manages to convey so much using so few words. This story wouldn’t work as well in any other format; it relies on the wonderful illustrations to create its unique magic. There are lots of little details which my kids adore. They love looking at the witch's bedroom and her belongings, including the cat's clothes. They're enormously entertained by the cat's antics too. They love watching the ghosts being collected, twirling around in the washing machine and being repurposed. They find the witch's ghost-catching apparatus highly amusing and always laugh when it reappears in the endpapers. The expressions of the ghosts are hilarious; they all have distinct personalities despite not having any lines.
When I first discovered this book last year, I was suprised to learn it had only been published in 2008. Ghosts in the House! reminds me of classics from the 1950s and 1960s like Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson and the work of Margaret Wise Brown. It has a quaint but irresistible charm and a timeless quality.
Why you need it... It's perfect for Halloween but can be enjoyed all year round. It's a great book for beginner readers to explore by themselves as most of the words are short and simple. If you're a teacher, this would make a fantastic classroom resource. You could even make your own potato stamps or paper ghosts as art activities to tie in with the story.
We didn't have this book when my children were tiny, but I'm sure babies and toddlers would love it. They would certainly find the images engaging, with their bold shapes and contrasting colours. This book is certain to cast a spell on everyone aged six and under (and even some adults too).
About the author-illustrator:
Kazuno Kohara was born in Japan and lives in the UK. She is also the author-illustrator of Here Comes Jack Frost, Little Wizard and The Midnight Library.
Ghosts in the House! by Kazuno Kohara was published by Square Fish, an imprint of Macmillan, in 2008.