By Tom Percival
Published by HarperCollins
Here is a nice treat for youngsters who like a gentle, friendly scare. Tobias and the Super Spooky Ghost Book is a text and picture storybook intended for young readers - but meeting Tobias is such a joy that the best thing to do is to buy the book for a younger sibling or friend and enjoy it yourself before you pass it on.
Tobias is illustrator Tom Percival's first storybook for children. Percival is best known as the illustrator of the Skulduggery Pleasant mystery fantasy novels, and anyone who has read the five Skulduggery books will know that whoever designed them is a gifted artist. With Tobias, Percival has drawn on additional skills, taking care of not only the illustrations, but the story and characterisation, too.
The opening pages are brilliant. The opening pages feature two dark-blue-tinted night views of the roofs of a sleeping town, which then zoom in on a blue-haired boy looking sadly out of a window. This is Tobias, a lonely child. He doesn't have any friends, and he wonders if this is because he is a ghost. Nobody would want to be friends with a ghost, would they?
There are other ghosts in Tobias' world, but they're all old and boring and don't want to play. They're all like Tobias' Great Uncle Finnegan, who spends his nights in his old armchair reading The Ghost News.
So, night after night, year in and year out, Tobias the lonely ghost has nothing to do but hang around the empty house longing for someone to have some fun with. He looks out of the window and sees the world changing. But nothing ever happens in the house. There is no one to haunt, no one to spook. Being a ghost should be much more fun.
One day, something exciting happens to change Tobias' afterlife forever. Just when he has given up hope of ever having any fun, a family moves in. Tobias can't believe his luck. The family has a daughter called Eliza who is about his age. "At last," he chuckles. "Time for some fun!" But when he begins his hauntings, things don't go quite according to plan.
A picture storybook such as Tobias and the Super Spooky Ghost Book succeeds or fails on the strength of the central character. Tobias is a blue, cheeky and very appealing character. Percival's detailed illustrations come alive on every page of this entertaining book. Who says storybooks are just for children? If they are, Tobias is for children of all ages who appreciate the art of telling stories in just a few words and a lot of cool artwork. Tobias has arrived, and he's probably here to stay.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com