________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 1. . . .September 5, 2014


What There Is Before There Is Anything There. (A Scary Story).

Liniers. Translated by Elisa Amado.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, 2014.
24 pp., hardcover, $18.95.
ISBN 978-1-55498-385-8.

Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 4-7.

Review by Lian Beveridge.

*** /4



He starts to feel scared because he knows what is coming next. It comes every night when the ceiling disappears. It is dark and shapeless. Blacker than blackest darkness.


Liniers’ picturebook What There Is Before There Is Anything There is exactly what the subtitle promises: a scary story. A little boy’s parents put him to bed, switch off the light and leave. Soon silent creatures float down from the “black and infinite” hole where the ceiling used to be; then a creepy nameless blob appears and says, “I am what there is before there is anything there.” The boy seeks refuge in his parents’ bed, but the same ominous figures begin to appear.

internal art     Liniers is a very successful Argentinean illustrator. I like his use of cross-hatching for the darkness and for the scary existential horror. His muddy colour palette creates a sombre mood. His short sentences and clipped scansion also create a tense feeling of suspense. For instance, as he describes the floating figures, Liniers writes, “They don’t say anything. They just stare. At him.” All of the elements of the text work well together to create a truly scary story. As his author biography explains, the original Spanish edition of this picturebook has won prizes including the Premio ALIJA (IBBY Argentina” and the Premio CAP (Camara Argentina de Publicaciones), and “it was selected for Mexico’s national reading program.”

      The book’s quirky illustrations and text would be appealing to creative children. The boy’s mother explains that “it’s just your imagination. Sometimes you make things up. It’s good to be able to make things up.” The silent creatures which float down from the sky are grotesque in a cartoonish way. They wear silly hats and have pointy noses. They are not nearly as scary as the nameless blob. The boy’s imagination brings both good and bad experiences into his life.

      The blurb on the English edition suggests that the book “will resonate deeply with young children who are afraid of the dark.” However, the book offers no way to deal with these fears. In fact, it takes away one of the few successful tools a child has– it’s not even safe in your parents’ bed. I would not use this book for bibliotherapeutic purposes. I can imagine it making night time fears that much worse. However, I was the kind of child who was scared of the dark and would have been scared of this book. In fact, I still get nightmares from scary books! However, I understand that many other people love scaring themselves, and they would appreciate this text in a way I can’t.

     I would recommend What There Is Before There Is Anything There for children who like scaring themselves, the kind of kid who sees this spooky cover and the words, “A scary story”, and gets a little thrill.


Lian Beveridge is an independent scholar based in Vancouver, BC. Her primary research interests are children’s literature (especially picturebooks) and queer theory.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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