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The Children's Bookshelf: Hardly Haunted - October 18, 2021

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Hardly Haunted written and illustrated by Jessie Sima is an unusual story about a lonely house. There are no people living inside this house. In fact, no one has ever responded to the “for sale” sign standing in the overgrown grass. This leads the house to think perhaps she is haunted! Hanging cobwebs, broken plaster, torn wallpaper and cracked floors add to the haunted possibility.

One dreary night the old house has a very spooky experience: “It started with a scratch!, scratch!, scratch! And a flicker of lights. Her foundation began to Groooaaannn! And a gust through her roof let out a hoooowwwl! into the night.”

After that, the house was sure she was haunted and that was just fine with her. Now she only had to find a family that fit her specialness! And then the house sees a possible “haunted” family dressed in white and encased in a blue light with bags and baggage coming over the hill toward her. They happily move into the house and begin fixing the place up. Father takes down the cobwebs, mother decorates the mantel with pumpkins and pictures and the children play with toys. The little girl has special fun dressing up as a ghost!

There is also an inquisitive black cat with an array of facial expressions in each of the delightful illustrations as the story goes forth. Children will love reading the cat’s face as the cat serves as unique storyteller.

Hardly Haunted written and illustrated by Jessie Sima is full of visual and auditory fun for readers 4-8 years of age (Simon and Schuster, 2021).

The Children’s Bookshelf is a production of WCMU. Links to the podcast and the Activity Questions can be found at Children’s Bookshelf dot org.

Activity Questions for Hardly Haunted

The face and the actions of the black cat in this picture book helps to tell this story. The cat appears in 14 illustrations. Find him and give him some words that fit his facial actions and bodily movements in each case. How would he tell this story if he could speak? Give him a voice!

What is your favorite illustration? Why? Take another look at the inside of the house. What can you see that would suggest that this house is haunted? Take another look at the outside of this house. What can you see that would suggest that this house is haunted? Turn to the illustration that shows all the rooms in the house at once. If you were to add a room to this picture and to the house, what would it be? Okay, go ahead and draw a picture of this added room. Have fun!

The author-illustrator of this book uses onomatopoetic words (words that sound like the action for which they stand) to describe what the house heard when it was going through the haunted night. What other sound words would you add to this evening of scratches and howls? Make a list of such words and then speak their sounds aloud. This could be a lot of fun to do with parents and siblings, too.

Sue Ann Martin is professor emerita of Communication and Dramatic Arts and the founding and past Dean of the College of Communication and Fine Arts at Central Michigan University, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. She first became interested in children’s literature when she wrote her PhD thesis on the oral characteristics of the Caldecott Award-winning children’s books. Her PhD is in Speech and Interpretation with a cognate in Early Childhood Education. She went on to review children’s books for the Detroit Free Press, write three popular resource books for teachers regarding children’s books and the creative process. She also reviewed newly-published books for Arts Almanac specials on WCMU Public Radio. Her 2002 children’s books special for WCMU won a Merit Award in Special Interest Programming from the Michigan Association of Broadcasters.