Monday, 21 December 2015

Leo: A Ghost Story

Leo: A Ghost Story 

Latest review for Inis Magazine/Website



Chronicle Kids 2015 (HBK) 52pp,
$16.99 US/10.99 
ISBN 9781452131566.   
The book begins with a question posed on the inside flap of the front cover. Most people cannot see ghosts. Can you? A challenging opening statement which should certainly provoke discussion before ever reading the story. Indeed, whoever picks this book should have a good indication of the contents from the title. Leo a ghost story, is no ordinary tale for small children. Firstly, it is longer than the average picture book; fifty two pages rather than the usual thirty two. This, however, is the perfect length as tailoring it would have diminished the overall product. Certain topics, such as:  paranormal activity, imaginary friends and unwanted nocturnal visitors are all investigated effortlessly and we have immediate empathy with Leo (the protagonist and ghost) who's really only trying to be helpful and friendly to the people who can't see him. Luckily he meets Jane (someone who can see him) and a friendship blossoms. Jane readily accepts her new friend as he is, in his spirit form but her mother labels Leo as an 'imaginary friend' because she can't see him. Many adults do the very same thing but here we are cleverly presented with the possibility of a real and not imagined unseen world, something which might come as a relief to children who are genuinely having this kind of experience. Overall the narrative is about 'powering' children up, we see the children facing challenges head on and when an intruder breaks in towards the end, we see Leo taking charge of the situation. Something which children reading or hearing the story could emulate.  Barnett knows how to spin a good yarn (Extra yarn, a previous book of his) he writes with clarity and precision.

Robinson's illustrations perfectly match the text. Hand executed in hues of blue paint and charcoal pencil, we instantly access a supernatural world which is endearing and familiar. Vintage references in the style of drawing as well as in some of the furniture also give it a quality of yesteryear which is appropriate to the storyline. Together Barnett and Robinson have a created a wonderful book, rich in storytelling and considerate of the intelligence of a small child's wonderings. (0-4, 5-7) Sadie Cramer


16 Dec 2015See more at