Now, this is a poetry book for children worth getting excited about. Subtitled Thirty-One Putrid Poems for October, this collection of Halloween-themed poems is a delight.
Darkly comic and anarchic in the tradition of Roald Dahl, this book invites you in from the very first glimpse of the Halloween House, taking you on a madcap journey where you can meet many of the stock characters traditionally associated with Halloween, now rebranded and reimagined for your entertainment.
The poems bounce lyrically off the page, aided by the deliberate use of rhyming patterns and regular rhythm which make them fun to read out loud. It’s as if the words are chasing each other in a tumultuous rush to tell their stories.
And what stories there are to tell; witches racing dangerously, the ‘nod nod wink wink’ Gran Helsing / Lugosi battle, the doomed love affair between a werewolf and a vampire, the pirate man-o-war The Dreadful terrorizing the Seven Seas, and many more – one for each day in October to be exact! My personal favourite is The Devil’s Locomotive where:
“ Lucifer’s fearsome wagon rolls,
Carrying sinners back from Hell.”
Lucifer is one of many characters you’ll find within. From Warty Wanda to Creepy Clara, the aptly named rapscallion Billy Rascal to the demonic driver that is Runny Puss, the inventive Riley Cain has created suitably creepy monikers for his capering characters.
What elevates this book is the inclusion of real-life references to myths and legends which offers an opportunity to delve into the origins of these stories, as do the historical references to redcoats, body snatchers, and a potter’s field…there is much to explore between the lines which offer an opportunity for some cross-curricular exploration – for the more enquiring mind. The settings are recognizably Irish – going cross country from village to graveyard…you could map these as an additional activity. Or not!
The other element which deserves additional attention is the striking illustrations that accompany this book. From the Halloween color-themed front cover to the decorated margins, this book is, quite simply, lovely to look at – not just during October!
Better suited to Upper Primary, this is a joyous celebration of all the beasties and creepies who call Halloween theirs, who “..dare to dream in resting sleep…”
One can only wait to see where Riley Cain’s imagination takes him next. I can’t wait!!
The Hallowe’en House, by Riley Cain, published by Currach Books, is on sale now for €19.99 (H/B).
By Lorraine Dillon, English Teacher, Abbey Vocational School, Donegal Town.