Books Paranormal and Carnivale Picture Book Challenge 2012 Picture Books Reading Themes

The Banshee by Eve Bunting and Illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully

"The ghost figure of a woman who wails or "keens" outside a house where there may be a death; an Irish superstition."

Poster courtesy of our treasured Iphigene

While Fats and I have no difficulties finding picture books related to the circus/carnivale bit, finding really worthwhile paranormal-themed picture books poses more of a challenge. Thus, I was glad to find The Banshee by Eve Bunting and Illustrated by Caldecott Medalist Emily Arnold McCully.

I’ve been fascinated with banshees. They seem more mysterious and ‘less-mainstream’ compared to vampires, witches, fairies and werewolves – yet they manage to scare you out of your wits with their wraith-like figures and their screaming keening wailing.

Click on the image to be taken to the websource.

Described as an Irish legend, the banshee is defined in this picture book as such:

The ghost figure of a woman who wails or “keens” outside a house where there may be a death; an Irish superstition.

Shrieks in the Night. The picture book opens to a young red-haired boy who woke up in the middle of the night, moonlight whitening the room, as he strained and heard the unmistakable ‘Scree … Screee’ of … what else but a banshee? Apprehensive that it might be ominous of a probable death in the family, Terry bumbled into his parents’ bedroom, anxious about his younger brother, Liam, who is said to be the “delicate one” in the family – and what the screeching of the banshee could possibly mean for their family. Naturally, the wailing stopped just as soon as his mother woke up (seems like the adults’ natural skepticism and outright disbelief turns all paranormal things off) – and he is tucked in, yet again.

Shimmering Peacock Feathers and Facing One’s Fears. What probably worked best for me in this picture book is young Terry’s determination to protect his family despite his fear of the banshee:

She had on a long black robe, like a nun’s, only hers was made of cobwebs. Her face was nothing but bones, and Colin said she looked right at him, and her eyes were two black stones.

Even with such a frightening description, Terry braved the darkness, went out into the eerie night skies, and offered the shimmering blue peacock feather to appease the wailing banshee. It shows how big a heart this young Irish boy has as evident in his willingness to do just about anything to protect his loved ones.

On Irish Twangs and Shadowy Illustrations. My daughter and I like reading books aloud using different accents (British, Irish, Aussie, Indian, and of course Singaporean accent) – what struck me about this book was that the Irish voice did not seem to be consistent – an issue which was also raised in Kiss the Book’s review. I loved McCully’s watercolor illustrations though, and the shadowy feel of the entire book, albeit quite dark throughout. To know more about Eve Bunting, click here to be taken to a detailed biography of Eve Bunting by ReadingRockets.org, with a video interview to boot. You can find out more information about Emily Arnold McCully in her official website that can be found here.

The Banshee by Eve Bunting. Illustrated by Caldecott Medalist Emily Arnold McCully. Clarion Books: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009. Book borrowed from the community library. Book photos were taken by me.

PictureBook Challenge Update: 8 of 120

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).

15 comments on “The Banshee by Eve Bunting and Illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully

  1. What a creepy looking and sounding book! I usually love Eve Bunting’s books, but none I know are like this. I can imagine using it with older students around our Halloween time, but it really looks too scary for younger students. The illustrations are awesome, I agree.

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    • Hi Linda! This is the first time that I’m reading an Eve Bunting book so I have little by way of comparison. 🙂 Will be sure to check out some of her other works pronto! 🙂

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  2. Some scary stuff…I love it

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  3. Looks very creepy, I will have to look for it at a book store.

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  4. The banshee (from the Irish language “bean sidhe” or fiary woman) is a really interesting figure in Irish folklore, someone who is too often misunderstood! Her wail is a warning or lament. If you hear it it means that someone close to you is dying. A surprising number of old folks in Ireland do still claim to have heard the banshee or to know someone who has.

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    • Hi Maeve, thanks for visiting. I’ve always been fascinated by the banshee, many thanks for letting me know that it came from the phrase ‘bean sidhe’ – I was hoping that I could visit Ireland this year, but we shall see how that goes. 🙂

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      • Hi Myra. I hope the travel plans work out! Do get in touch too if you are coming over to this part of the world. I’d be more than happy to recommend a few good places to visit.

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  5. My kids love The Banshee! Screeeeee! It has just enough creepiness to scare them, but not enough to give them nightmares!

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  6. There aren’t enough creepy picture books around–thanks for sharing this one, Myra! (I’m a big Eve Bunting fan, so that makes it even better.)

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    • Hi Kate! What a sight for sore eyes you are! So nice of you to come by and visit. This is my first Eve Bunting, so I should look out for her other books, seeing that they come highly recommended by you. 🙂

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  7. Pingback: List of Circus, Carnivale, Paranormal Themed Books for All Ages «

  8. Pingback: Monday Reading: Cybils Fiction Picture Book Nominees – A select few that got away |

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