Today a big box of new books arrived in our school library. This is one of the joys and privileges of my job! I grabbed a handful and sat down to read and read starting a long time after school had finished and leaving school in the dark.
Leo a ghost story made me gasp with delight. I do have a particular love for books about imaginary friends - I know Leo is a ghost but he is also a friend and for a short time he does take on the role of an imaginary friend.
Leo has had a happy life living in an empty house "reading books and drawing picture in the dust." One day a new family move into his house. Leo makes a gesture of friendship. "He made them mint tea and honey toast. Leo thought he was being a good host." The family cannot see Leo and panic. There is a ghost in their new house. They hide in the bathroom and the little boy says "I hate ghosts!" Leo knows it is time to leave. He wanders the streets and he sees a city that is both familiar and strange, noisy and wonderful. As he wanders along he meets little girl drawing with chalk on the sidewalk. At this point you should stop and look at the end papers which are filled with Jane's drawings. Jane says hello to Leo and he is amazed. He is so happy to be seen and he joins her imaginative games with gusto. Jane has a collection of imaginary friends - Sir Ruffs, a loyal dog, Sir Mews, a loyal cat and Sir Squawks.
One of the most magical moments in this book comes when Jane says to Leo:
"Don't tell Sir Ruffs ... but you are my best imaginary friend."
The problem is Leo is not an imaginary friend. He is a ghost. How can he tell Jane? Will she reject him when she knows the truth?
If you have a dust jacket copy of the book look at the cover underneath - there is a drawing of the coat of arms designed by Leo as a gift for Jane. After all they have had a wonderful evening playing knights and dragons.
I am a huge fan of Mac Barnett. Billy Twitters and his blue whale problem is a firm favourite of mine. Mac Barnett has listed some review comments for Leo a ghost story on his web site. I also loved sharing Extra Yarn with our classes last year when we explored a mini theme about knitting.
Together, words and pictures construct a whimsical, delightful story that deeply respects the child. And in Jane, they create a brilliant heroine whose powers lie within her wit,