The Halloween House

Riley Cain enlists some literary magic to provide a countdown of poems for Halloween, in a book which is brightly written and vividly illustrated. Poems range from the lighthearted (a house inhabited by mummies and Banshees), to the wonderfully absurd (sweet-loving Vikings) to the genuinely haunting (The Phantom Highwayman). Riley’s poems are delivered in simple meter with imagery which is stirring, and at times chilling, providing young readers with just the right balance of spookiness and safety which will make this a volume they will look forward to reading, even if from behind a cushion! Local Irish detail makes these stories feel all the closer to home, with townlands and regions finding a place.

A large team of illustrators provides boldly stunning backgrounds and surrounds for Cain’s writing. The predictable deep oranges and blacks are present, but so are other autumnal colours which give the text a real sense of richness and depth. The cartoon Frankenstein’s monsters, werewolves, witches, diabolical bus drivers, are simply rendered, but carry a sense of fun and foreboding in equal measure.

Parents will want to be aware that among the caricatures there are references to the occult that some may find disturbing. For those who revel in Halloween celebrations already, however, The Halloween House will prove to a welcome lyrical companion. 10-12

Andrew Roycroft