Leo: A Ghost Story: A Picture Book Review

Leo: A Ghost Story by Mac Barnett and Christian RobinsonLeo is a lonely ghosts. After years living alone in his house, Leo is thrilled when a new family moves in. Unfortunately his efforts to welcome them with mint tea and honey toast go horribly wrong.

Feeling rejected and unwelcome, Leo decides to set out and see the city. The city isn’t at all the way Leo remembered but it does lead him to Jane–a little girl looking for a  new friend. When Jane realizes that his new friend thinks he is an imaginary friend, Leo has to decide how to tell the truth without ending up alone again in Leo: A Ghost Story (2015) by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Christian Robinson.

Barnett’s matter-of-fact texts makes what could be a scary story entirely approachable and friendly for readers of all ages (even ones who might be afraid of ghosts!). Robinson’s artwork takes on a ghostly quality with blue hues dominating most pages. Leo, drawn in a blue outline, seems suitably transparent and ghostly in each frame.

After the careful build up introducing Leo and his subsequent travels through the city, the ending of Leo: A Ghost Story feels somewhat slight by comparison. The idea that friends can be found anywhere (and in all levels of solidity/visibility) will also be a familiar one for anyone who readers picture books with any regularity.

The text and illustrations work well together to capitalize on site gags including Leo trying to serve a family mint tea and honey toast which the family sees as a distressing floating tea service. Leo: A Ghost Story is a great choice to pair with spooky stories or add to an imaginary friend themed story time.

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Last Stop on Market Street: A Picture Book Review

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena and Christian RobinsonEvery Sunday after church, CJ and his grandmother get on the bus and ride it across town. None of CJ’s friends do this. On the ride CJ wonders why they don’t have a car like his friend Colby. Or an iPod like other boys on the bus. CJ wonders why they have to ride the bus all the way to the dirty part of town. Grandma answers each question thoughtfully as she reminds CJ that sometimes a journey is more important than the destination in Last Stop on Market Street (2015) by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson.

Last Stop on Market Street is de la Peña’s first picture book.

Brightly colored illustrations from Robinson make this book pop from the cover through to the last page. Robinson’s bold, blocky style helps pictures pop–even from a distance if reading this to a group–and draws the reader’s eye across each spread.

De la Peña has an ear for dialogue which comes across in CJ’s authentic conversations with his grandmother wondering about all the cool (to CJ) things that they lack. While I was surprised to see CJ’s diction was never corrected when he asked “how come we don’t got a car?” it did feel like a real kid talking throughout the story.

CJ’s grandmother reminds him to be grateful for little things (like an exciting bus, a guitarist on the bus who plays a song, and so on) while the pair rides across town to their final destination–a soup kitchen where CJ and his grandmother volunteer.

Last Stop on Market Street is a fun story with enough text (and surprises) to make it a great choice for older picture book readers. Discussion points and Robinson’s artwork also make it a great choice to read to a group. Hopefully the first of many picture books to come from de la Peña!