cover image The Ghost of Nicholas Greebe

The Ghost of Nicholas Greebe

Tony Johnston. Dial Books, $14.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-1648-3

A peaceful death is no guarantee of a tranquil afterlife, at least not in this gleefully chilling picture book by a master storyteller. In a prime ghost-story setting--a colonial Massachusetts valley ""dark with trees, threaded with rivers, and often cloaked in fog""--Nicholas Greebe is laid to rest on a day so cold that his shivering family digs too shallow a grave. A restless dog unearths the bone, which then travels around the world and even to the bottom of the sea; meanwhile, its disappearance from the grave has created a ghost (""Forevermore/ I quest, I quest/ till all my bones/ together rest""). Narrating the tale in a rhythmic, even campy style, Johnston (The Iguana Brothers) makes hay with the ghost story tradition: ""In the luminous gloom, precisely at midnight, the old man gave up the ghost. That is to say, he died."" Schindler's (Charlie Malarkey and the Singing Moose, see p. 62) spidery ink drawings and frosty colors create a creepy atmosphere that retains a sly humor, a la Edward Gorey. Good, crowd-pleasing fun in a classic genre, this yarn can be either as spooky or as silly as the audience desires. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)