When I’m on a picture book purchase quest, I have a good idea what I’m looking for -usually. However, there are times when a book will just jump out at me, and I say to myself, “hey, who are you, what are you doing here?” It’s like finding a bright, beautiful little flower in the crack of a sidewalk; it’s so unexpected, and yet, you have to say: “there’s a reason you’re here. Let’s explore.” This is exactly what happened to me this week. I went to pick up a little ghost story, but somehow found this adorable never-to-be-without-again picture book.
The Little Ghost Who Was A Quilt written by award-winning novelist and quilter, Riel Nason, illustrated by Byron Eggenschwiler is about a ghost who finds it difficult to understand why he is a quilt, why he is so different from every other ghost. Especially when his parents and all of his friends are easy, breezy sheets, which are what “normal ghosts” should be, right? A normal ghost has a sheet, a light an airy sheet to twirl, to swirl, and to hover with ease. Little ghost’s quilt is so “heavy,” and he finds it too difficult to whirl, too difficult to swirl, and too difficult to hover. He just can’t keep up! AND, it’s just too hot to ghost around in a quilt. Though his parents try to reassure him by telling him about an ancestor who spooked with a checkered table cloth, and his great-grandmother who had a beautiful lace curtain (this is adorable, I can’t take it), the little ghost still feels left out and alone. It’s not reassuring at all. However, on Halloween night, the little ghost who is a quilt experiences an event of kindness that can only happen because he is a quilt making it clear of his usefulness and how he is valued because he is from a different cloth.
Graphic novel and award-winning illustrator, Eggenschwiler pairs the story with brooding sepia tones (is there any other kind of sepia?) with speckles of orange here and there highlighting the Halloween backdrop, He surrounds our sulking ghost with bold pops of patchwork blues, greys, and white reflecting the weight of sorrow while haloing him to the forefront of the story. I don’t know why, but the art gives me a slight Gotham feel mixed with surprising cuteness. Just when you start to feel concerned, adorableness pops up and says “ah, just kidding!”
The art of picture book writing is to tell a clear and concise story with an economy of language, to allow the illustrations to be part of the narrative, both bringing about a significant point without it being so obvious. Nason and Eggenschwiler do it so well. I love how this story represents many layers: personal imagery, diversity, loneliness, self-acceptance, and how we love and help each other and ourselves. It’s swimming in self worth. But the page turner is the beguiling question of: how is our little ghost going to figure it all out?! With the answer falling –(don’t worry, no spoiler here)- “within the simplicity of kindness.”
This is such a special story and will stay with you for many Halloweens and beyond. It has become an absolute favorite of mine; I’m so happy I stumbled upon it. The little protagonist will pull at your heart and leave you feeling so loved and warm.
You know, like a quilt.
Published by: Tundra Books, September (2020), Hardback, 40 pages
Download this Lil-Boo to draw your own patterned ghost. What other cloth would you draw?