Chased the Big Bad Wolf – the biggest book sale in the world – in World Trade Center, Philippines last weekend and took home a basketful of books. One of them books is “The Most Haunted House,” written by Nicola Baxter and illustrated by June Goulding. It is a board story book for children with 3-D windows and a glow-in-the-dark front cover.
The story follows the narrator’s journey into an old mansion s/he finds within a churchyard in the middle of the night. In each of the pages the narrator describes the eerie parts of the house, from the front door, to the stairway leading “a creepy stone corridor”, up to a foul-smelling bedroom. The pictures, on the other hand, shows the different spooky creatures the narrator sees as s/he picks her/his way to the mansion; from sharp-toothed bats, to green-faced witches, smiling cats and rats, to Casper-like ghosts, and skeletons. The journey ends at the back of the room where the narrator finds “a curious cupboard.” S/he then urges the reader not to look because inside it is a monstrous creature “so impossibly ugly and terrifying.”
True to its word, the 3-D cupboard reveals this most monstrous being ever. All the reader needs to do is look at the distorting mirror placed at the back of it. And there it is. . . The joke’s on you!
I think it is really a clever book! My 3-year old son and 4-year old niece love it sooo much, they ask me to read it to them over and over again. Although they cannot read YET and cannot understand the lengthy narration on the left side of each page, they sure understand the joke in it (with the help of my translation). I just love watching them scream and laugh at themselves when they open the door of the 3-D cupboard.
***On a serious note***
As an adult, I couldn’t help think about the double meaning of the joke. I mean, it only makes sense that you find yourself to be the most monstrous being in the end of the story because in real life, we are our own monsters. We have so many fears, but most of them were created in our minds. We are afraid of failure, but we doubt ourselves even before we start trying. We are afraid to be criticized by others, but we have criticized ourselves way before they do. We worry too much and over-analyze things that we don’t get to enjoy life as it is. We create our own monsters and make our world scarier than it actually is.
But too much on being serious! We already have too much seriousness in the world without the double meaning in this book. I think any reader can enjoy and love it even on the surface level. And I’m so glad to add it to our humble collection of books. It was of pure good luck that we found this needle in a haystack full of other fun, interactive, pop-up, pull-out, touch-and-feel, and most importantly, inexpensive board books for children.