Alice Schertle (author) and Curtis Jobling (illustrator), The Skeleton in the Closet (Harper Collins, 2003)
I love Halloween. It's my favorite holiday, and why not? It's a time to embrace the creepy-crawlies, revel in the things that scare us, go trick-or-treating and bobbing for apples, carve pumpkins, watch old horror movies and tell spooky stories.
I also love my three-year-old goddaughter. So of course, when she was just a year old, I made sure she knew how much fun she could have with ghosts, goblins, and things that go bump in the night. On her very first Halloween I gave her a giant plastic jack-o'-lantern in which to store her candy. For her second Halloween, we walked around the Halloween display at a large chain store, her on my shoulders pointing and giggling at the vampires, skulls, bats and ghosts other kids twice her age were shying away from. She reveled in Zoo Boo, a local Halloween-themed tour of the zoo, and watched in wide-eyed wonder as one of my Halloween toys, a flying mechanical bat, circled the room.
This year is no different. Just this week I took her The Skeleton in the Closet, and within five minutes it became her new favorite book.
Alice Schertle's (Bill and the Google-Eyed Goblins; Down the Road) charming thirty-two page full-color children's book is as much a delight to read as it is to look at. The rhymes roll off your tongue and let you leap from sentence to sentence with a certain amount of glee normally reserved for ghouls and goblins. And Curtis Jobling's (Bob the Builder) simple, yet captivating, illustrations bring this book to life, without all the wires, dials and lightning bolts required by Dr. Frankenstein.
It's a funny, lighthearted look at spooky stuff that won't leave the kiddies shaking in their shoes or give them nightmares. If anything, they'll be envious of the main character.
But don't take my word for it the best reviewer of a kids' book would, naturally, be someone about three feet tall whose innocence is matched only by her delight in everyday things. So here's what my goddaughter had to say:
"Ohhhhh!" as I handed her the book. "Ahhhhhhh," pointing to the skeleton and then putting her hands in front of her wide eyes, giggling. "Skeweton!" she declared confidently, pointing to the bone man on the stairs. "Baseball. Slippers. Bed," she told me knowingly, pointing to the different items Jobling included in the main character's room. She took to turning the pages so fast I couldn't keep up. Luckily they're made of pretty sturdy paper, or we would've had confetti in minutes. "Again," she said when I turned the last page and said, "the end." And, finally, the best praise of all, which she repeated umpteen times over the course of the night as she handed me her new prize: "Read? Book? Please?" (At one point, she even took another one of her books, a former favorite, out of my hands and handed me Skeleton)
So the verdict's in: The Skeleton in the Closet is a fine, funny, first person-account of a boy's spooky adventure with a skeleton who comes a-calling. It's a joy to read, and an even bigger joy to watch the reaction of the child being read to. Although it's recommended for ages six and up, smart little ones will get a kick out of being read to, especially if you let them see Jobling's eye-catching, colorful illustrations while you're rattling off Schertle's wonderful rhyme scheme.
Still, I think my niece summed it up best when I asked her if she liked it: "Yeah! Read!"
What more could anyone say?