Anu has just moved to a new town and she isn’t happy. She misses her best friend Mira, she can’t find her way around her new house, the kids at her new school aren’t nice to her, and on top of everything else she has to deal with ghosts in her closet! She asks the Hindu monkey god Hanuman for help, but he doesn’t get rid of the ghosts like she thought he would. He does give her support and encouragement, though, and with his help Anu figures out how to make friends, drive away the ghosts, and settle in to her new home.
- Title: The Closet Ghosts
- Author: Uma Krishnaswami
- Illustrator: Shiraaz Bhabha
- Publisher: Children’s Book Press/Lee & Low Books
- ISBN: 0892392088
- Publication Date: December 27, 2005
- For Ages: 6-8
- Category: Picture Book
- Spooky-Scary or Spooky-Fun? 🎃 Fun.
This is probably the happiest ghost story I’ve ever read. Anu is cheerful and determined, even when everything seems to be going wrong, and she never doubts herself despite her parents’ skepticism when she tells them that monkey god Hanuman is sleeping in her room and helping her vanquish her closet ghosts. Her solution for driving the ghosts away is joyful and charming. Anu’s attitude is infectious, and Shiraaz Bhabha’s vibrant drawings of her wide smile make this a delightful read.
The ghosts are impish little monkey spirits; they’re more annoying than they are frightening. They seem to be creations of Hanuman, designed to teach Anu (and later Mira) how to cope with their separation, make new friends, and learn to solve problems on their own. This connection is never stated outright, though; in concept and in form, this picture book is for more advanced readers. Though the drawings are bright and lively and the story is engaging, the higher word count (1,220) and prose as opposed to verse might lose the attention of younger children. Little ones will love the monkey spirits, though, and all readers will love Anu.
The Closet Ghosts is a bright and optimistic book that would be especially good for children who have just moved to a new place or for classes with new students. It portrays homesickness in a way that shows kids that they can still keep in touch with their friends from back home while easily making new friends. It would also be a fine addition to lessons or storytimes centering around world languages and religions. There are some interesting facts for kids and adults who may not know much about Hindi (for example, we learn that the suffix “-ji” is used as a sign of honor or respect) or Hinduism. Be sure to read the author’s note at the end of the book that gives some more information on Hanuman and the inspiration for the story.
Uma Krishnaswami’s passion for teaching children about her culture shines through as brightly as Anu’s easy smile. I give this book 3.5 out of 5 coffins.