Right before his dog Ella died, she promised Gus that she would always be with him. After she died, Gus didn’t feel like doing anything, not even leaving the house, but he did. He didn’t feel like trick-or-treating, but he put on his skeleton costume and headed out anyway. But when Gus started to head back home after his bag was full, he passed through a graveyard where it got dark and windy and creepy. In moments, Gus was surrounded by skeletons, real ones. At first the skeletons thought he was a real skeleton too, but when they found out that he was a boy, they threatened to steal his guts. Just before anything happened, Ella showed up as a skeleton dog. But what in the world can a small boy and a small skeleton dog do to stop a crowd of skeletons?
If that paragraph above read like a rather strange storyline, then I wrote it correctly. This is not a “normal” picture book. It has a wonderfully shivery, scary part to it combined with the loss of a beloved pet, and then a great funny twist at the end. It is not a disjointed book at all, but rather one that is unexpected which makes for a fun read.
Rohmann’s art is done in his signature style. The thick black lines mix successfully with the deep and subtle colors. What grabs the eye is Rohmann’s layout of the pages, where whitespace is used as more than space for the words to appear. The style stays consistent throughout the book, but the perspective is intriguing and adds much to the book.
A strange and superb choice for Halloween reading, this book should be shared throughout the year too as a celebration of intriguing, unique picture books. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.