- Seen and Not Heard
- written and illustrated by Katie May Green
- published by Candlewick Press (2015)
- Roar Score: 3/5
Here’s a book that’s perfect for Halloween without being too scary. It is a picture book, after all. But it’s a picture book that begins like this: “In a big old house, up creaky stairs, in a silent little nursery fulls of dolls and teddy bears, you’ll find the children of Shiverhawk Hall. They’re children in pictures on the wall – seen and not heard.”
What a fantastic setup for this slightly spooky story that got banned from my 4-year-old’s bedroom for being “too creepy.”
In fact, Seen and Not Heard by Katie May Green isn’t really scary at all. It’s about a collection of children’s portraits on the wall, and the children in those paintings come alive at night and run riot around the house.
I will admit that the book ticks off all the right boxes to establish a totally creeptastic story. It’s got a big, spooky house. It has inanimate objects coming to life. It has creepy Victorian kids. But the story is essentially about a bunch of kids having fun and doing things they’re usually told not to do (e.g., jumping on beds and running in hallways).
The art adds another perfect October ingredient since the colors are all muted, and the children – even though they’re mostly all smiles and giggles – are still a little “off.” Especially those DeVillechild twins (from the cover). They’re almost totally expressionless and straight out of a Japanese horror movie.
The book establishes an interesting “what if?” scenario that kids might find interesting. What were kids in old paintings really like? What if you were trapped inside a painting for hundreds of years; what would you do once you got out?
But the ultimate message of the book still seems to be that children should stay “still and sweet and good . . . seen and not heard.” It’s a bit of an odd message for 2015, to be sure, but there’s not much to lead kids to think the book or the narrator is actually suggesting otherwise.
(Disclosure: Candlewick Press provided a review copy of this book. All opinions remain my own.)