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Kim's Book Reviews
| Home | Picture Books | Traditional Literature | Poetry | Nonfiction | Historical Fiction | Fantasy & Young Adult Fiction | Author Study: Lois Ehlert

by Jack Prelutsky


Prelutsky, Jack. GARGOYLES ON THE ROOF. Illustrated by Peter Sis. New York: Greenwillow Books, 1999. ISBN 0688096433.


This humorous and witty book contains poems about werewolves, trolls, gargoyles, vampires, the bogeyman, and other assorted monsters.


Prelutsky's collection of dark, musical verse begins tamely enough; we meet a barber preparing to open for the day, discussing very ordinary tasks and implements to be used in his trade. Peter Sis's unusual presentation of the barber hints that something is not quite normal here, and then in the final verse, Prelutsky sets the tone for this spine-tingling collection of poems, "I'm the werewolves' master barber, and the moon is full tonight." In the pages that follow, we are introduced to a wonderful collection of scary creatures.


The meter in the poetry is song-like; it is a delight to read aloud. The use of sensory words help readers to see "Gobbleup" the goblin, with his "nauseating green" complexion and "long and pointy" ears, and to hear his "shrill and thin" voice. The poems are filled with wonderful word-play and puns, such as a "troll-free number" and "daring acro-bats."  Children will identify with the familiar experience of wanting to stay up past bedtime in "Song of the Baby Gargoyles," and even the mundane tasks of grooming are interesting if you are a vampire, "When I look into the mirror,/ My reflection's never there,/ So I always stare at nothing,/ As I shave and comb my hair." Many of the poems are filled with surprising and humorous twists. In My Sister is a Werewolf," readers can identify the family's dismay at this occurrence, and then will be shocked to learn that the rest of the family are vampires.


Peter Sis's artwork is a perfect compliment to Prelutsky's verse. The pictures are eerie and sinister, with just enough humor thrown in to keep them from being truly frightening. Each page is framed in gold with subtle accents which continue both the theme of the painting and the verse.


This is a great book to read aloud in the fall as Halloween approaches. Both children and adults will enjoy these wacky, chilling poems, and want to commit a few to memory.