An eccentric babysitter has a knack for telling stories that are eerily well suited to her young charges.
When Carolina Giddle moves into the Blatchford Arms, no one knows what to make of her sequin-sprinkled sneakers and her trinket-crusted car. But the parents are happy there’s a new babysitter around, and Carolina seems to have an uncanny ability to calm the most rambunctious child with her ghostly stories.
Armed with unusual snacks (bone-shaped peppermints, granghoula bars and Rumpelstiltskin sandwiches), candles to set the mood, and her trusty sidekick — a tarantula named Chiquita, Carolina entertains the children with some good old-fashioned storytelling and, at the end, a great Halloween party.
Governor General’s Award winner Glen Huser brings his quirky sense of humor and horror to some time-honored motifs. The artistic Lubinitsky girls find out that artists must be wary of the power of their own creations. Holy terror Angelo Bellini discovers that no one can throw a tantrum like a double-crossed pirate. The Hooper kids, including UFO junkie Benjamin, learn about some eerie goings-on in the New Mexico desert. Timid Hubert and Hetty Croop are practically afraid of their own shadows, until they hear the story of a boy who finds the perfect weapon for overcoming his fear of the dark. And Dwight and Dwayne Fergus, two would-be Freddy Kruegers, finally meet their match in Carolina, and her story of the footless skeleton.
As for Carolina Giddle herself, it turns out that she has a timeworn connection to the Blatchford Arms, and to the ghost who still haunts the building — especially its old-fashioned elevator.
Correlates to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts:
Compare and contrast two or more characters, settings, or events in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., how characters interact).
Compare and contrast stories in the same genre (e.g., mysteries and adventure stories) on their approaches to similar themes and topics.
In episodic chapters that call to mind the quirky problem-solving of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, Huser (Skinnybones and the Wrinkle Queen) introduces Carolina Giddle, who drives into town on Halloween night and moves into #713 at the Blatchford Arms. Carolina's business card says it all: "Experienced babysitter, mah-jong instructor, and vegetarian caterer. Will do light housekeeping and s ances upon request," and the Southern transplant uses the power of storytelling (ghost stories, in particular) to charm Blatchford's young residents. For unruly twins Dwight and Dwayne Fergus, a story about two boys who get on a skeleton's bad side after they steal its foot for a prank, is just enough to scare them straight; the tale of a mountain king who creates scary shadows helps timid Hubert Croop conquer his fear of the dark (along with the gift of a penlight). Although Huser's story is set in the present, the once-grand apartment setting, eccentric character names, and many candlelit storytelling sessions call to mind children's novels of yesteryear. Innerst's moody b&w illustrations make Carolina's eerie tales feel all the more real. Ages 8 11.