The incorporeal nature of the ghost has long held a place of fearful wonder in the minds of both adults and children. The darkness that phantoms inhabit and the unknown terrains they roam can trigger the most primal angst. For an author to subvert these creepy images into something inviting and cuddly is not unprecedented; yet in Sir Simon, Super Scarer, Cale Atkinson goes further, encouraging readers to recognize themselves in the spirits – and, more specifically, to see that humans aren’t the only ones who have lonely nights.
Sir Simon Spookington is a rosy-cheeked, green visor–wearing ghost who believes himself the embodiment of might and fury. After years of haunting bus stops and boats, his move into a real home holds exciting possibilities – until he realizes that the elderly lady who’s supposed to live there alone is in fact accompanied by her young grandson, Chester. Turns out, ghosts consider kids troublesome and too curious. The boy can see Simon, and in the place of terror, Chester sees a chance at fun. So Simon does what any mischievous ghost would: he makes Chester do all his ghostly chores for him. Covered in a not-at-all-spooky floral sheet, Chester makes eerie animal sounds and stomps around the attic until he loses all stamina for the nocturnal routine.
Beneath the text and humour, a tale of loneliness is brewing. When Simon sees pictures of a younger Chester taken in many different homes, he realizes that the boy also “gets transferred” a lot – and the little ghost empathizes. He tries to make it up to Chester by doing his human chores – with disastrous outcomes. And yet a solid friendship is forged.
Atkinson uses his artistic panache to create something nuanced and layered. Simon addresses the audience directly, breaking the fourth wall and catapulting readers into a richly imagined world. The splendidly coloured and textured scenes transcend traditional storytelling, using diagrams, quick sequences, and superbly emotive characters. While this little ghost may not be scary, he’s got a sixth sense for fun and compassion.