As our bimonthly theme, Circus, Carnivale, and Paranormal Twists, comes to an end, I bring you Angela Shelf Medearis’s spooky albeit quirky picture book entitled The Ghost of Sifty Sifty Sam. This book was not part of my original book list for review. I stumbled upon it by accident while borrowing books for our Black History Month special a couple of weeks ago.
The Ghost of Sifty Sifty Sam tells the story of a lowly chef named Dan who spends the night in an abandoned house in the East Texas woods. Rumor has it that the house is haunted, and the realtor decides to offer a “$5,000 reward to anyone brave enough and smart enough and crafty enough to stay in the house all night long.”
Deep down in the East Texas woods,
where the wind wails through the tall pine trees,
there stands a beautiful old house.
That old house sits by a lake that’s so clear,
the moon uses it for a mirror.
Now folks in those parts say
that the house is haunted
by the ghost of Sifty Sifty Sam.
While I don’t paint, I do enjoy looking at landscape art. The image shown above is the first image you’ll see after the dedication page. Jacqueline Rogers’s watercolor paintings in the book are beautiful. I like how she used varying shades of blue/green in the image above, without being too spooky or revealing too much of the story.
The plot of The Ghost of Sifty Sifty Sam reminds me of Hollywood horror movies, though I couldn’t figure out which one exactly. I did a little research and found a classic horror film, House on Haunted Hill (1959), starring Vincent Price. (The movie was remade in 1999, with Geoffrey Rush as the lead character.) It has a similar plot – five guests were offered $10,000 to stay in a haunted house. I might check it out on one of my days off. Then again, I’d rather be watching Toy Story than horror flicks. Working graveyard shift is spooky enough as it is. Heh.
If somebody offered you $5,000 to spend one night in a haunted house, would you do it? I’d love to hear your thoughts about this. I probably wouldn’t do it, unless Mikey joins me. He’ll be the meat shield. Haha!
Well, Dan had his pride and he wanted to win
that $5,000 reward from the realtor man.
So he closed the curtains and tried to pretend
that what he heard and saw were only the wind.
Then Dan heard that voice again,
but it was louder this time.
So he slipped over to the door,
cracked it open a little bit,
and scrunched up his eye
to peer through the slit.
Out on the porch there stood a man
about seven feet tall
with a head and shoulders and chest and arms…
but no legs! No legs at all!
Most reported ghost sightings/pictures on the Internet depict ghosts in translucent or wisp forms that barely show body parts. What would you be more spooked at – a wispy-shaped ghost, or a life-like one? Either one would scare me, but the worst is probably a ghost with chains and/or shackles. The sound makes it all the more eerie.
Despite all these talks about ghosts, and the really creepy image of old Sifty above, The Ghost of Sifty Sifty Sam is not too scary for children. It’s a nice read-aloud picture book for the young ones; Angela Shelf Medearis presented the story in verses, while Jacqueline Rogers used pastel colors in most of the pages, thus making it less scary.
While The Ghost of Sifty Sifty Sam is, for the most part, a ghost story, it incorporates themes that children may draw insights from. These underlying themes include friendship, overcoming one’s fears, and taking pride in one’s job.
About the Author and Illustrator
(Taken from the back cover)
Angela Shelf Medearis has been voted one of the three best storytellers in the world by Storytelling World Magazine. She is the author of several Scholastic books including Here Comes the Snow!, The 100th Day of School, Picking Peas for a Penny, and The Seven Days of Kwanzaa. She is also known as the ‘Kitchen Diva’ and has written a few cookbooks. If you wish to know more about her, you may visit her website.
Jacqueline Rogers, who was chosen by the author to illustrate The Ghost of Sifty Sifty Sam, has illustrated more than fifty books, including Monster Soup, a poetry collection compiled by Dilys Evans; Five Live Bongos by George Ella Lyon; Snow Angel by Jean Marzollo; and The Little Ballerina and Her Dancing Horse by Gelsey Kirkland. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, Ms. Rogers lives in upstate New York. If you wish to see more of her artworks, you may view them at her website.
The Ghost of Sifty Sifty Sam
By Angela Shelf Medearis, illustrated by Jacqueline Rogers
Reading Level: Ages 5 and up
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: Scholastic Press (Oct 1997)
Book borrowed from the South Orange Public Library.
Book photos taken by me.