Thursday, March 10, 2011


New York: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children. ISBN 97805472154020547215401

Plot Summary
Brown explores the dark side through his clever poetry and accompanying artwork.  His beastly portraits are colorful and capable of sending shivers down one’s spine.  Witches, werewolves, monsters, and even the legendary Chupacabra makes an appearance under the alias of Oompachupa Loompacabra.  A series of portraits rot in reverse with the story of the final poem, Gory René.

Critical Analysis
The poems and illustrations from Mr. Brown or “the blue phantom elephant” will stir up emotions relating to the odd and unknown.  He creatively adds freaky fun twists to familiar ghastly and ghoulish stories.  The artistic sketches behind the poems produce an ambiance for the adjacent spooks to make an even bigger impact.  The baseball “bats” in the Vumpire are a perfect sidekick.  The poem of "Duncan," the shrunken head, has the catchiest of rhymes, and assonance gives the feeling that that he is swooping just overhead.  
"From high in the sky 
they buzz the town, 
swooping down
and terrifying passerby. 
When children cry,
oh my, how they cackle!"
A strong rhythm throughout the book makes it fun to read aloud.  Drop-dead funny, like the Grim Reaper in the poem Grim Supper, this book inspires belly laughs all around. 

"Brown's acrylic illustrations add to the creepy silliness: an artful mix of naive and stylized, whimsical details and vibrant color. Young readers will relish the wordplay and find themselves torn to choose a favorite among this wacky menagerie." - Marilyn Taniguchi.  School Library Journal

"The most effective illustrations are those whose limited palettes allow the sharply contrasting, pointy, and slightly sinister shapes to take center stage, but in general the strong acrylic hues, fanciful shades, and antic energy provide imaginative support for the poems. Kids will relish the spooky browsability and tongue-rolling horror, while readers-aloud will find year-round as well as seasonal opportunities to slip in a poem or two." - Deborah Stevenson.  Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

  • Give children one randomly cut shape piece of paper.  Have them sketch a portrait of something scary which includes the piece of paper.  After they glue it down, they can write a poem describe what they drew. 
  •  Local urban legends and myths are present in each city and town.  Children can brainstorm about their own regional spooky stories, and write poems to share with classes or groups.
  • After reading about Brown's create ghostly tales, children can sit in a circle and practice telling their own stories.  The first student can say up to two lines, and each student will add a rhyming line to make the story more interesting.

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