Welcome to another installment of 31 Days of Halloween! This is our chance to set the mood for the spookiest and scariest month of the year as we focus our attention on horror and Halloween fun. For the month of October we’ll be sharing various pieces of underappreciated scary books, comics, movies, and television to help keep you terrified and entertained all the way up to Halloween.
If you are going to be uprooted in the middle of the night, you might as well be taken to a cool house in Brooklyn where your two amazingly unique and wonderful aunts live. Witches of Brooklyn is a charming tale suitable for pre-teens, teens, and quite honestly adults too. Released by Random House Graphic last month, this is a great story to get in the mood for Halloween.
The story starts off with a bang when a very anxious Effie meets her sleep-deprived and less than cheerful aunt Selemine at the door. (We see more of the cantankerous side of Selemine throughout the story, which proves quite comical.) Effie’s whole world is gone, and she is left to sleep in an unfamiliar bedroom.
The next morning, Effie awakes to discover this isn’t your typical household. Her first inclination is the small dog, Lion, who seems to know a lot more than a dog should. As breakfast begins, more oddities occur that pique Effie’s interest, which her aunts dismiss. Her quirky aunts, Selemine and Carlota, are a perfect odd couple to raise Effie. Carlota is even-keeled and wants to make you cocoa whereas Selemine is a spitfire who speaks openly and dresses with a “fashion” sense. You can tell right away that Effie and Selemine will be going head to head quite often in future adventures, but their love for each other always overshadows their difference of opinion.
You fall in love with the main characters immediately and the extended characters of Oliver, Berrit, and Archibald are likable as well. The story is well thought out and lays the stage for backstories and character development over a series. I can envision tales about “the librarian”, Lion, Panda, Oliver, and of course the aunts.
I enjoyed the happy diversion as well. Escabasse touches upon relatable topics such as popularity, nerves around public speaking, taunting, and the desire for a smartphone. Escabasse does a tremendous job of capturing the emotions and effusiveness of preteens. A great example of this is the moment that Effie meets Oliver and Berrit — Berrit immediately envelopes Effie in a huge hug when she hears that Effie’s mother has died. Oliver, while in a reserved manner, offers his support as a fellow orphan. The story at its core is about self-discovery; believing in yourself, remembering what makes you who you truly are, and a little bit of magic. Quite frankly, don’t we all wish sometimes that we could discover a little magic in our lives as well?
The artwork is colorful, consistent, and offers a lovely mix of complete scenes, close-ups of faces, and maps of the property. I always think that maps add a sense of adventure, where you can envision yourself in the rooms or wandering through the house to find what’s behind that next hidden door. And as we learn, and I won’t spoil it for all of you, there are even more wonders to discover than what is on the initial map.
The one drawback I had, and it is quite small, is the use of the Disney-like font. It was a bit jarring. I understand the usage of a different style to express certain emotions and create emphasis but all I kept thinking every time it popped up was “Disney”. (This sent me down an entirely different rabbit hole.) Honestly, it’s the only criticism I can give of the book.
Well done Escabasse for writing and illustrating a wonderful story. I look forward to following Effie Selemine and Carlotta (and I suspect a bit more Lion) on their next adventures. I highly recommend The Witches of Brooklyn.