cover image She Wanted to Be Haunted

She Wanted to Be Haunted

Marcus Ewert, illus. by Susie Ghahremani. Bloomsbury, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-68119-791-3

This winsomely warped story stars Clarissa, an “adorable” but miserable bubblegum-pink cottage surrounded by daisies. Her father is a haunted castle who’s home to vampires and bats, and her mother is a witch’s hut filled with rats, frogs, and spells, but “unlike both her parents,/ Clarissa wasn’t host/ to anybody scary—/ not even one wan ghost!” Her parents’ efforts to help backfire amusingly: the castle offers a rain cloud that generates flowers, and the hut provides a bottle of noxious vapors that, rather than repel innocent creatures, attracts adorable puppies. Though Clarissa fears the worst when a pristine unicorn appears, “sometimes life has funny plans/ that we cannot predict./ The unicorn was vicious—/ he bit and spat and kicked.” The tone can feel muddled, mixing useful commentary about being oneself with a self-critical protagonist who, perhaps concerningly, ends up with a “brute.” But deadpan verse by Ewert propels the tale, and cartoons, painted by Ghahremani in gouache with graphite accents, escalate the humor. Ages 3–6. (July)