Hardly Haunted by Jessie Sima. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2021. 9780534441705
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4
Genre: Picture book
What did you like about the book? An old house wonders if she’s empty because she’s (gasp) haunted! With her vaguely human face (windows for eyes and wood trim for her nose and mouth), she’s pretty cute, which lets readers know that this won’t be a scary story. A tiny black cat with yellow eyes appears on every page, which provides a secondary story line for young readers to follow. The house can’t do anything about the dust and cobwebs, so she tries to hold very still, to quiet the moans, creaks and squeaks that might scare off potential buyers. But a windy storm comes up quickly and the old house decides she likes being haunted, and that also suits a family of ghosts who soon take up residence. The full page illustrations and bright yellow scribbly text shouting onomatopoeias such as scratch, rustle and rattle will make this a good prompt for group participation. Children may also enjoy suggesting solutions to the house’s predicament. I liked the existential thread running through the story; do we have to change who we are to meet the expectations of others? Or should we just be ourselves and believe that this course will bring contentment?
Anything you didn’t like about it? My only qualm was the appearance of the ghost family. There’s a realistic mom, dad, 2 kids and a dog, all carrying suitcases (albeit white and surrounded by ghostly ectoplasm). Won’t kids ask why the whole family died? Maybe some jolly phantoms in bedsheets would have been a better choice.
To whom would you recommend this book? Anyone looking for a sweet and not-scary Halloween read aloud. Children age 4-6 would be the best audience.
Who should buy this book? Elementary and public libraries
Where would you shelve it? Picture books
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No
Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA
Date of review: August 12, 2021