Halloween is on us again, and as in previous years, I thought I would do a Halloween themed review of books for kids, middle schoolers, and teens.
I recently discovered a series of classic horror literature converted to graphic novel format. These include Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven & Other Tales.
Muted colors pervade Frankenstein, emphasizing the themes of loss and loneliness from the original text. Characters are drawn with a perspective that creates a feeling of viewing from a distance or being separated from the events of the story. Frankenstein’s monster, were it not for his stitches and hallow face, could almost pass for a regular man.
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde also utilizes color to emphasize theme but, in contrast to the monochromatic tones of Frankenstein, the illustrator makes heavy use of red, brown, green, and even pink. Perspectives are closer with less depth of field, highlighting themes of chaos and madness. Mr. Hyde is portrayed with deformed, almost caricature witch-like features. In addition his face is marked with sores indicating disease such as smallpox or similar.
The Raven & Other Tales makes strong use of bright almost neon colors. In one section of the book, each page is overlaid with a different bright color such as purple, turquoise, or red. The reader is given a sense that the narrator is experiencing hallucinatory sensations.
While Dracula uses similar color schemes as Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde, the drawings are less detailed or refined. In some places, sketches take on almost a satirical expression while in others there is detailed use of shadow and shading. These may have been deliberate choices to highlight certain aspects of the story line.
Retaining the dialogue of the original text, these classics have been carefully illustrated to retain the feel and theme of the original. The graphic novel format may appeal to teens interested in exploring the original text in a more accessible or familiar format. This introduction to the stories may further inspire teens to delve into the original novels.
Ghosts, a graphic novel by Raina Telgemeier, centers around the story of Catrina (Cat) and her family. Her sister Maya has cystic fibrosis, so the family has moved to the coast of Northern California in an effort to improve Maya’s health.
BahÍa de la Luna is different from other places in that the old missions and constant fog provide the perfect conditions for ghostly visitors. The entire town is obsessed with ghosts and as such Dia de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead) is an especially grand affair. Maya is delighted by this revelation. Cat, however, desperately wishes it would all disappear.
As with Dracula and the other classics, the graphic novel format makes the story more accessible to younger readers or to kids who might not otherwise read a 200 plus page book.
The inclusion of the cystic fibrosis story line is presented in a positive yet realistic manner. Cat knows that her sister’s lifespan is likely to be cut short due to her condition, and as such she is protective of her even as she finds her annoying. The novel does not shy away from the subject of death but addresses it with a frank yet sensitive tone. Maya’s illness has made her determined to live as full a life as possible, and feeds her obsession with the town’s ghost culture. Cat, on the other hand, struggles with the idea that her sister might not always be around and as such, retreats more into herself and tries to reject the ghost stories.
Some readers objected to the depictions of the Dia de los Muertos celebrations claiming Telgemeier appropriated a culture that is not her own and that she presented the holiday as more of a “Mexican Halloween” than a day during which families honor and pray for those who have gone before.
Ghosts is not as scary as the title implies, but since the Dia de los Muertos holiday has come to be celebrated starting on Halloween Day it is an appropriate book for the time of year. Children of Hispanic descent will likely enjoy a book which depicts characters who look like them and who have cultural similarities.
Peanut Butter and Brains written by Joe McGee and illustrated by Charles Santoso introduces the reader to Quirkville, a town overrun with zombies. Reginald is a young zombie who is different from the other zombies in that instead of craving brains, he desperately wants a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The residents of Quirkville are understandably frightened of the zombies. After all, nobody wants to get their brains eaten. In addition, the other zombies are confused by and skeptical of Reginald. How can a zombie not be interested in brains they wonder? Then one day, Reginald sees a little girl at the bus stop with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in her hands.
Peanut Butter and Brains is a great book for beginning readers. Santoso’s illustrations nicely complement the story line without being too frightening for small children. The theme of standing out from the other zombies emphasizes the positive aspects of being unique.
Parents will be amused by Reginald’s eagerness for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and may in fact see their own picky eater within the plot lines.
Peanut Butter and Brains will delight kids and will not bore parents quite as quickly as a constant diet of peanut butter and jelly might.
I Will Not Eat You by Adam Lehraupt and Scott Magoon presents Theodore a monster who lives in a quiet cave. Occasionally various animals wander by the cave and each time, Theodore wonders if he should eat them, but each time decides that he is not hungry. Eventually, a little boy comes to the cave. Theodore is getting hungry. Should he eat the little boy?
I Will Not Eat You is a delightful book about little boys, dragons, and unusual friendships. Illustrations are presented in large images with broad strokes and bright colors. Young children will be eager to see whether or not Theodore eats the little boy, and parents will audibly laugh at the somewhat dark twist at the end.
I Will Not Eat You is a perfect addition to the collection of Halloween themed books and will likely become a favorite among young kids and parents.