Books Picture Book Challenge 2011 Picture Books Reading Themes When Words are Not Enough

An Ode to the Creepy and the Mysterious: A 2-in-1 Fernando Krahn Special

Our Wordless Picture Book Special for March and April 2011

Our tradition of coming up with a 2-in-1 GatheringBooks Special began with James Thurber and Marc Simont’s 2-in-1 Special for The Wonderful O and 13 Clocks as could be found here. Since then, we have made efforts to combine books that are either written/illustrated by the same author/s (David Almond and Dave Mc Kean,  Jan Ormerod, Ann Grifalconi) or books that belong to the same theme (Fats’ 2-in-1 Hauntingly Cute Special featuring Mo Willems and Delphine Perret).

For this post, I make a tribute to Chilean-born author Fernando Krahn’s wordless picturebook classics. Ever since we have featured his wordless Self-Made Snowman here and his Little Love Story here, I knew I had to search for all his remaining books in our library and include them for our Bimonthly theme on “When Words are not Enough – a Wordless Picture Book Special.”

The Creepy Thing

Book Layout. The way that this 6×6 book is packaged suggests a postcard-feel to it, with each page framed with square-type illustrations – each one beautiful enough to be placed as artwork in anyone’s wall. Very different from the full-spreads in Self-made Snowman.

Fishing and Harmonica. I enjoyed the lazy, countryside feel of the book with this young boy whiling away his hours, fishing rod in hand, hoping for a good catch. It’s just so different from the usual fast-paced lifestyle that I am used to, it gives me a quiet sense of calm just imagining a day without schedules and deadlines – a day that is blessed by how much fish you’ve placed in your basket, the feel of the wind and music in your fingertips.

Sometimes I do wonder what life would be like with a day like this... and the next day.. and the day after.

Cause and Effect that Caused an Effect. Where the creepy thing came from and exactly what it is, the reader is free to make conjectures. Suffice it to say that our little boy threw it away the minute he laid eyes on it, strange and eerie as it is. And similar to the style adapted by Krahn in his A Little Love Story, the only color that could be found in this monochromatic book would be this green hairy creature that was fished from the sleepy pond.

I think our young boy didn't appear frightened as much as revolted by the greeny icky sight of this creepy thing

I particularly enjoyed how this little boy seemed amused (rather than scared) at the effect his harmonica made to the green creepy thing. It was his music that caused the creepy thing to frolic and move around in rhythm (ok, dance) – which caused the boy to bring it safely home, packed away in his basket. However, it appears that our creepy thingy just can not be contained, it has to be out there in the streets, frolicking and dancing about – causing other people (who do not know any better) to run and scream for their lives.

I can hear her shriek from the pages

Green + Hairy + Different = Police Squad up in Arms. I believe that the strength of the book is that an educator or a parent can take the narrative a notch more complicated – by discussing what the green creepy thingy could possibly signify. Usually people respond to the odd, the different, the strange with fear which brings about hatred which brings about violence. I do sound like Yoda there for a bit, right? (Try, yes I do.)

Yes, the police were there - ready to fire at this hapless strange creepy creature

While the story may seem absurd and funny and may originally meant to be such, there are serious undertones that can be covered with one’s own children as they struggle to deal with ‘differentness.’  While from an evolutionary angle it does make sense to react defensively in the face of a threat – one could also miss out on lovely greenish-hairy-dances by the pond – or out there in the streets – with the harmonica playing softly in the background.

Amanda and the Mysterious Carpet

Our Little Dunyazade

In this book, we are taken yet again to that which is strange, odd, and ‘mysterious.’ I deliberately picked out the photo above since what this little girl is reading (“Arabian Fairy Tales”) has a lot to do with the purely visual narrative. One may even wonder… hmm… flying carpet and Arabian Fairy Tales… sounds good to me.

The mysterious carpet with a life of its own

The Little Girl’s Cutesy Bouncy Character. Whereas the little girl in Jan Ormerod’s Sunshine and Moonlight evokes a sense of calm and quiet, this one seems like your typical, inquisitive, sharp-tongued, cheeky girl with character that is pronounced by her ruffled dress and oversized ribbons in her hair (I am thinking either bright red or luminous pink). One thing that the two girls have in common though: they lovelovelove books.

Uh-oh... I smell trouble here.. Appears like the Carpet Will Not be Ignored.

The Taming of the Carpet. Now what to do if your carpet – for some mysterious reason – acts like an attention-seeking pet that demands your absolute focus? Why be absorbed with a book, when you have a flying magical carpet for a plaything? See some of the images that I got from the book to have your Lesson 101 on Carpet-Taming from this little girl:

Lesson Number 1: Chase the carpet around the room. Make sure that you grab the flying tassels.

Lesson 2: If all else fails, stand on top of a chair, scream with all your might and command the willful carpet to come down. Now.

Lesson 3: Once you have the carpet’s full attention, sit on top of it. Scream your banshee head off and let it know that it should Behave. Or Else.

A Child’s Credulity, the Faith of the Pure-Hearted. What strikes me the most in these two stories (The Creepy Thing and Amanda and the Mysterious Carpet) is this enormous capacity of both children to simply believe. No questions asked. No inhibitions. No fancy hi-tech equipment to figure out what the carpet or creepy thingy is or where it came from. All it takes is a harmonica and a bossy little girl screaming at the top of her lungs. Absolutely fearless. The tenuous dimensions of make-believe and truth being fragile, slippery – and totally irrelevant to a child’s eye.

Let’s take a ride in the magic carpet while playing the harmonica. May hairy green creepy creatures crawl on your dreams tonight, dear readers. And may you enjoy their company.

PictureBook Challenge Update: 39/40 of 72

The Creepy Thing by Fernando Krahn. Clarion Books, Ticknor & Fields: A Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, 1982. Book borrowed from the NIE Library.

Amanda and the Mysterious Carpet. Clarion Books, Ticknor & Fields: A Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, 1985. Book borrowed from the NIE Library.

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

6 comments on “An Ode to the Creepy and the Mysterious: A 2-in-1 Fernando Krahn Special

  1. I’m thinking we could all learn a thing of two from Mr. Krahn’s characters. Guys should definitely take a cue from the boy in A Little Love Story every Valentine’s Day. Carpet Taming lessons from Amanda and the proper way of dealing with being different from the boy in The Creepy Things (I think the duo should take their act on the road ^^) as you have mentioned. I do love the page where Amanda stood on a chair with her chest all puffed up, a finger gesturing the carpet to sit still. I wouldn’t want to get on this girl’s bad side. Yipes. 🙂


    • myragarcesbacsal

      Hi Tin. Amanda is scary, isn’t she? Haha. I know what you mean about not annoying her, I could just imagine her toddler squeals and screams from across the pages – and to think she’s reading Arabian fairy tales – she must have this enormous vocabulary to express her displeasure.


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