Book: Leo: A Ghost Story
Author: Mac Barnett
Illustrator: Christian Robinson
Age Range: 3-6
Leo: A Ghost Story, written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Christian Robinson, is a book for preschoolers about the joy of friendship. And, as promised, it is a ghost story, though a far cry from scary, perfectly suited to preschoolers.
Leo is a small ghost boy who lives by himself in a large house. Most people can't see him, but luckily, the reader can. He spends his time reading and drawing. When a family moves into the house, he tries to be welcoming. Alas, they are not receptive. Leo is forced to leave.
Roaming the city, Leo meets a girl who (perhaps due to her strong imagination) can see him. She thinks that he's another of her (many) imaginary friends, and takes him home with her. Leo feels a bit badly about being there under false pretenses, but the lure of companionship is too strong for him to resist. And, of course (this being a picture book for preschoolers), things work out in the end.
Leo felt to me like a cross between Casper, the Friendly Ghost and Beekle (the Caldecott-winning imaginary friend), with a hint of the boy from The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig. He's creative, nice, and polite, and wears a delightfully old-fashioned outfit. He makes mint tea and honey toast.
Leo: A Ghost Story is a trifle long, and a bit more text-heavy than most picture books aimed at the preschool crowd. There's a humorous bit where Leo expects the imaginary animal named "Sir Squawks" to be a bird (based on previous experience), but it turns out to be a giant hamster. This may go over the heads of the youngest listeners. But my five year old enjoyed every word, as did I. Here's a snippet:
"After dinner Jane returned to her room and gave Leo a sword. They snuck into a cave, slew a dragon, and stole all his loot. When Leo closed his eyes, he could almost see the gold coins and green scales."
Such a celebration of imaginative play!
Robinson conveys Leo as a simple line drawing. You can generally see the background right through him. Otherwise, he is colored in with the lightest of gray tones, just so you know he's there. He has a mild, cheerful smile. He is not at all intimidating, despite being a ghost. Just as a note on diversity, Leo's friend, Jane, is apparently African-American (though her skin tone is actually a deep blue). She provides a nice contrast for Leo, who is merely outlined in blue.
I believe that, like Barnett's Extra Yarn, Leo: A Ghost Story is destined to become a family favorite in my household. Recommended for home and library use.
Publisher: Chronicle Books (@ChronicleKids)
Publication Date: August 25, 2015
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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