CM . . .
. Volume XXII Number 32. . . .April 22, 2016
Lil’ Creepers’ EPIC All Hallow’s Eve is about the Hallowe’en escapades of monsters and undead children who inhabit the world of Mystery on the Creep Islands. The plot comes from the imagination of Madoc, ON, resident Shawna Mathison, who also illustrated the story with felt pen and coloured pencil drawings.
The story includes a myriad of characters suitable to a modern tale - a family with two moms and a blind zombie who uses a cane to navigate. It teaches a moral – not to judge people on their looks or on the basis of rumors, but to get to know them for their positive qualities. The story’s well intentioned but challenged by its ambitions.
The characters “live and work and go to school just like we do”, according to the author’s lengthy prologue. Other than being non-human, it’s not clear why they live in the world Mathison has created. The monsters and undead seem to be ordinary children, too, whose supernatural transformations also seem imposed. Mathison’s involved descriptions of events in the characters’ lives preceding this story do not impact on the events in the plot.
The story revolves around the children’s goal to scare each other on Hallowe’en and later unmask at a party. They are curious yet apprehensive when they learn that a family has moved into Maniac Manor, a supposedly haunted house. A little girl is said to live there, but they haven’t seen her at school yet.
The children engage in hijinx and have fun as they gather loot on their Hallowe’en outing. They meet Precious, the little girl from Maniac Manor, and notice her mask seems to be different from those they are wearing. But she’s a nice kid and is invited to the party. There, they discover she is a ‘Humin’, a type of creature no one on the Creep Islands had ever met, but all fear through age-old lore.
The story is full of complications and asides that are not important to the narrative. Mathison has tried to include kid-type humour that may work if the story is told orally but doesn’t succeed in the written format (when Precious is discovered to be Humin, an elderly Creeper screams, “I cleaned my room this very morning!”, except there is no other mention of messy rooms by elders or young’ns). There’s an invisible brother who plays no role in the plot, is never referenced by the other characters nor affects their decisions, but whose observations and views are recorded throughout. Midway through the book Mathison inserts a half-page *Author’s note to explain the definition of ‘Humin”. “…all cultures have their beliefs and legends”, she writes, providing a fairly complicated description of the different shapes and sizes of humans and their habitats. It’s an interruption in the story that could have been incorporated into the characters’ understanding of ‘humins’.
Mathison has much to say. As a result, the story is far too long for the age group that should appreciate it. Most of two-page 8 ½ x 11” spreads have one full page of text or more, not a typical format in today’s picture books. Mathison uses combinations of dark colours together – purple, brown, grey, black, in complicated drawings that are hard to decipher or relate to the text on the page. The level of detail would do better with some white space for a reader to be able to sort out the messages Mathison is trying to convey.
Mathison previously self-published other “Lil’ Creepers’” adventures. This title is published by Pemmican Publications of Winnipeg, which promotes of Metis culture and heritage. There is no stated or obvious connection to Metis culture in Lil’ Creepers’ EPIC All Hallow’s Eve. It may be that Mathison is Métis descent, herself, but promotional material doesn’t include information to indicate that.
This thin paperback format book may get lost on the shelves in a school library. In any case, it’s unlikely to attract an independent reader. Teachers may consider it for a read-aloud, but there are many more stories with stronger writing and better plots that will resonate with children who are learning about acceptance.
Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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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.