Image: A smiling white ghost floats in front of a group of objects including a basket of fruit, a potted plant, a candle, a record player, and a violin. Pink and orange filigree borders the image. Text: "Gustavo, the Shy Ghost. Flavia Z. Drago."

KidLit Book Review: Gustavo, the Shy Ghost by Flavia Z. Drago


Gustavo is good at doing all sorts of ghostly things: walking through walls, making objects fly, and glowing in the dark. And he loves almost nothing more than playing beautiful music on his violin. But Gustavo is shy, and some things are harder for him to do, like getting in a line to buy eye scream or making friends with other monsters. Whenever he tries getting close to them, he realizes they just can’t see him. Now that the Day of the Dead is fast approaching, what can he do to make them notice him and to share with them something he loves?


  • Title: Gustavo, the Shy Ghost
  • Author/Illustrator: Flavia Z. Drago
  • Cover Artist: Flavia Z. Drago
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • ISBN: 1536211141
  • Publication Date: July 14, 2020
  • For Ages: 3-7
  • Category: Picture Book
  • Spooky-Scary or Spooky-Fun? 🎃 Fun.

I’d like to thank Candlewick Press for providing an advance copy via NetGalley in exchange for review consideration.


Gustavo, the Shy Ghost is an adorable and gorgeously illustrated picture book debut from author/illustrator Flavia Z. Drago. Perfect for Halloween or the Day of the Dead, it’s also an ideal year-round read to help kids understand that it’s okay to be shy and that you can be a quiet person and still be a great friend.


Gustavo is a shy ghost who wants to make friends with the monsters at his school, but he just doesn’t know how to talk to people. One day he gets up the courage to invite them all to listen to his violin concert at a Day of the Dead party in the cemetery. When no one shows up, Gustavo is heartbroken. He decides to play his violin anyway and begins glowing with the joy of music. Suddenly, the monsters appear and explain that they just got lost. They compliment Gustavo on his playing and ask him to hang out with them from now on. It’s a charming story that emphasizes being brave enough to be yourself and to reach out to other people for friendship.

Image: A white ghost wearing a black bowtie and holding a violin sits dejectedly on a sofa in the middle of a cemetery that has been decorated for the Day of the Dead.

Drago’s art is full of life, humor, and empathy. Her bright pinks and oranges combine with earth tones and cool blue-greens to create a sweet, gentle, and fun narrative. The mixed media illustrations are filled with color and pattern, and Drago never misses an opportunity to add endearingly spooky details to every page. With plenty of heart, wit, and charm, Gustavo, the Shy Ghost is a terrific picture book to add to your library.


I can’t wait to see what Flavia Z. Drago does next! I give this book 4.5 out of 5 coffins.

4.5 Coffins

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