Several years ago, Neil Gaiman suggested celebrating All Hallow’s Read around Halloween. You celebrate the Halloween season by giving seasonally appropriate books to friends and family. Either directly about the holiday, or perhaps spooky and scary books that fit this time of year’s mood. I’ve done this for the past three years now with my girls. This year was a bit of a challenge for my newly turned seven year old. She loves Halloween but really, really does not like to be scared. She is reading at a first grade level so I didn’t want it to be another picture book, she’s out growing those. Then I found Ghoulia: Making New Friends Can Be Scary. It’s about a perfectly normal zombie girl meeting new people and finding friendship by being herself.
Ghoulia lives at Crumbling Manor with her Auntie Departed, albino greyhound Tragedy, zombie cat Shadow, Uncle Misfortune, and Grandad Coffin. Auntie Departed insists that Ghoulia must never let anyone, especially children, from the village see her. For fear that they would then be forced from their home. Despite her aunt’s dire warnings, Ghoulia desperately wants to make friends with the other children. One day she over hears them talking about a holiday where people dress up as monsters and go from door to door asking trick? or treat? and getting candy.
This gives Ghoulia an idea, what better time to leave the manor to meet new children than a night when everyone else is dressed like a monster too! Ghoulia schemes up a plan and then executes it Halloween night, successfully sneaking past Auntie Departed. And of course she meets children, who are a bit stunned after her zombie reveal, but quickly embrace her as their new friend.
Written and illustrated by Barbara Cantini this is a charming story that is a combination between picture book and chapter book. The pages are brimming with artwork, sometimes being fully page illustrations, but there is more text, like a chapter book. My seven year old loved Ghoulia. The artwork was so cute she didn’t get squeamish over the main character being a zombie. We would definitely recommend it for children who love things a little bit spooky.