Review of The Ghostly Carousel: Delightfully Frightful Poems

The Ghostly Carousel: Delightfully Frightful Poems
by Calef Brown; illus. by the author
Primary    Carolrhoda    32 pp.
8/18    978-1-5124-2661-8    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-1-5415-2468-2    $17.99

Brown (Soup for Breakfast, rev. 3/09; Hypnotize a Tiger, rev. 3/15) gives his quirky, funny verse and art a spooky twist here with seventeen poems celebrating ghosts, witches, demons, and even fondue-eating cannibals (who love to dip “fingers in cheese”; cheese comes up again in “Insect Pie,” where “tasty fleas are stuffed with cheese / until they nearly bust”). The rhythm in some of the poems takes getting used to, beginning with the first poem (“the children of the coven, / being far too young / to use the cauldron or the oven…”), but the successes outweigh the flaws. “Canary Canoe” is one stronger example, a poem about vengeful supernatural canaries, depicted in Brown’s acrylic and gouache illustrations with red eyes and angry expressions — it’s silly, and genuinely creepy. The poems will make most sense to children old enough to recognize such references as Medusa, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and a ghost who gambles with “bones.” In the atmospheric title poem, Brown’s “Ghostly Carousel” is decorated with skulls, and it features (instead of horses) an angry-looking unicorn, a grizzly bear, and a barracuda, among others, leaving room for kids to wonder what they might see on a ghostly carousel of their own creation — an imaginative exercise perfect for the Halloween season.

From the September/October 2018 issue of The Horn Book Book Magazine.
Susan Dove Lempke
Susan Dove Lempke
Susan Dove Lempke is a Horn Book reviewer and director of the Niles Public Library District in Illinois.

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