There’s a Ghost in This House by Oliver Jeffers. Philomel, Penguin Random House, 2021. 9780593466186
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4
Format: Hardcover picture book
What did you like about the book? A little girl seemingly lives alone in a big spooky house; boy, is she glad you came by to visit! With her green skin and aquamarine hair, she looks like a more cheerful, colorful version of Wednesday Addams as she invites us to help her find the ghosts she’s been told live in her mansion. Jeffers is having fun with layers here. Vintage black-and-white photographs of interiors are the base layer, with the little girl appearing as a collage on top of those. Then readers can turn the sturdy see-through vellum pages printed with ghosts, marveling at their ability to see what the little protagonist cannot: rounded, bed-sheet wearing phantoms who aren’t too scary. The oversized nature of the book and its tall, thin shape help to reinforce the bigness of the empty house, with just the one lonely inhabitant shuffling around, looking for spirits. Part of the fun will be predicting where the ghosts might be hiding and checking to see if you were right. I did like the idea of using tracing paper to “add” to illustrations and think creative kids might feel inspired to try this out with other picture books.
Anything you didn’t like about it? Not really a negative but there’s no story, it’s more of a beautiful look-and-find book. Children who are really scared of ghosts or families that don’t approve of ghost stories should probably look elsewhere.
To whom would you recommend this book? Oliver Jeffers fans who enjoy his drollness and instantly recognizable artwork will like this book. It’s a stylish alternative to silly or scary Halloween fare. The see-through pages seem pretty sturdy, but librarians should be warned that once they’re damaged or ripped out, the book will be nonsensical.
Who should buy this book? 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: January 9, 2022