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Monday, July 27, 2015

Leo: a ghost story, written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Christian Robinson. Chronicle Books, Raincoast. 2015. $22.50 ages 4 and up

"Leo was glad to have
company. On the first
night, he made them mint
tea and honey toast. Leo
thought he was being a
good host.

But the family saw
things differently."

Poor Leo! He has been living in this house for many years, with only himself for company. His life is sedate, yet pleasing. Then, when a new family moves in, he does his best to make them feel at home. The family is not enamored of the idea at all. They are afraid of ghostly doings, and the son doesn't like tea! As they sit together in the bathtub trying to decide what to do, they make it clear how they feel about the idea of having a ghost in their new home.

"The family called in a scientist, a clergyman,
and a psychic to get rid of the ghost.
But they should have saved their money: Leo
knew he was unwanted. He said goodbye to
his home and left."

Having been a home ghost for so long, Leo looks on this new stage in his life as an adventure. He will be a roaming ghost. But, the city has changed; he doesn't like the noise, or the fact that places are not as he remembers them. No one can see him, he can't ask questions, he is lonely. Then, one afternoon, he meets a girl who can see him. Jane notices him right away. Leo introduces himself, and becomes part of Jane's lively, imaginary world.

When Leo learns that Jane thinks he is imaginary, he is afraid to tell her the truth. As the story plays out, Leo must finally admit to her that he is a ghost. She readily accepts this new knowledge, liking him even more because of it.

Christian Robinson acrylic paint and construction paper in blues and blacks to match the tone of Mac Barnett's text. The child-like drawings on the endpapers are an invitation to young readers to 'come on in' and see what's happening. On the title page, we watch as Leo walks through the wall, and in the final frame, we see him walk out on the other side. In between, we are witness to the difficulties and delights that as testament to life lived as a ghost.



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