________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 19 . . . . May 15, 2009

cover A World Full of Ghosts.

Charis Cotter. Illustrated by Marc Mongeau.
Toronto, ON: Annick Press, 2009.
48 pp., pbk. & hc., $10.95 (pbk.), $19.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55451-182-2.
ISBN 978-1-55451-183-9.

Subject Heading:
Ghosts-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4-8 / Ages 9-13.

Review by Mary Thomas.

*** /4


Saudi Arabia

A swirl of smoke rises from a body on the ground. A man has been murdered, and a ghost is created from his spilled blood. The Arabian afrit (a-freet) is an angry spirit that seeks revenge. If someone thinks fast and drives a nail into the pool of blood, the afrit will not form. But if no one nails down the ghost, a dangerous afrit will rise into the air and pursue the murderer to punish him.

A Visit from Grandad
When Kerry was a little boy, he looked up the staircase one day and saw his grandfather, dressed in black, walking across the hall from one of the bedrooms to the bathroom.

Kerry went into the kitchen and said to his mother, "What's Granddad doing here?"

"Granddad's not here," said his mother, busy with the cooking. "He's at his house in Belfast."

Belfast was twenty miles away.

Later that evening a relative called with some sad news. Kerry's grandfathers had died that afternoon, just about the same time the boy saw him crossing the hall.

internal art

As Charis Coffer says, in her "Welcome" to A World Full of Ghosts, "People all over the world find it deliciously thrilling to sit in the dark telling ghost stories." Here she has collected a bunch of "true" ghost stories--mainly mysterious appearances of people where they are not, as in the excerpt above--and interspersed them with descriptions of traditional spooks from many lands. These latter are interesting, and while here they are collected in groups of "hungry ghosts", "child ghosts", "wandering ghosts", etc., they could also be grouped in other ways. There are ghosts that explain natural phenomena such as Ahkiyyini, the skeletal ghost of Alaska who causes earthquakes and tidal waves as he dances, pounding his boney shoulder blades with his boney arms. Others are inducements to follow the proper traditions, such as China's hungry ghosts who are the souls of people without families to pray for them and from whom the living must find ways to protect themselves during the Month of the Ghost. And then there are the familiar ghosts seeking revenge for wrongs done to them during their lives.

     However you organize them, these stories are a fascinating collection of traditions. The "true" ghost stories that accompany them are mostly low-key enough to be believable, but are they scary? Well, each page has a heading of skulls, from one to three of them depending on the ability of the story to raise the hair at the back of one's neck, but I am afraid my hair stayed firmly in place as I read in my well-lighted livingroom. If, on the other hand, I had been listening to someone reading in sepulchral tones around a campfire on the beach, my hair might well have been more responsive! In other words, this book provides excellent material for would-be storytellers, and, as well, kids will read the book avidly, inadvertently learning something about other cultures as they do so. I anticipate the book's being off the library shelves from Day One to the point where I can no longer keep the pages together!

     The illustrations do a splendid job of creating an atmosphere of mystery and spookiness on the page, whether they surround the text or for which they serve or act as complete background for it. Some are fairly representative pictures of incidents in the story or are imaginative ideas of how the ghost would appear or act, while others take elements of the whole piece of text and weave them together to make a very satisfying collage of images. It's too bad that it is impossible to combine looking at the pictures with sleep-over storytelling--perhaps after all it is a dual-purpose book!


Mary Thomas works in an elementary school library in Winnipeg, MB, and, while a bit tired of ghosts herself, finds the children to be insatiable in their demands for ever "scarier" books.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
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