Thursday, October 7, 2010

It's Book Month!! Kelly's - The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde (a lost favorite)

 A few weeks back, my daughter and I stood at the gates of a 300 year old cemetery in Amherst , MA in the dark.  After a dare to go in- I did.... but quickly came out. My daughter was convinced I had become a zombie. I had to prove to her I wasn't and was still Mom by singing all of the words to a song she thinks "Only I would know"- "On The Good Ship Lollipop". I proved I was not Zombie-Mom.
Altho, we were both freaked out- we were also having a great time. The next day we toured a house in town that is unquestionably haunted.  (if you believe in that stuff)

All of this made me think of how much I used to love a good ghost story. From the original black and white Caspar the Friendly Ghost cartoon to that book I had ... hmmm. What was that book?  It took a few days- but I remembered after several googles.. The Canterville Ghost!! - I had a picture book version- I think I inherited it- it had to be from the 50's. I remembered the old black and white movie version starring Charles Laughton as the ghost and Margaret O'Brien as the little girl.
What a great story- of an American little girl, lonely in a big old mansion in England. She encounters the cranky old ghost of the original owner of the manor and finds a way to redeem him so he can finally rest in peace.

What a fabulous thing to illustrate, I thought!! If it could be illustrated in a fun way, it could be a great graphic novel that kids would snap up - rather than a dusty old short story with a picture of Oscar Wilde on the cover. I did find a few contemporary illustrated versions- the best one by Lisbeth Zwerger.
-So I read the original -and it is WAY different. Very dated- in it's 1887 language and pop culture references to the American ways of the day. The plot and characters are more complex; with a whole family- Mother, Father, older brother, "daughter"of 15, and the twins.

Tho - I liked the story I remembered- where the little girl is the main character and hero, I loved the relationship in the original book between the ghost and the twins. Here in lies the humor. Sir Simon-trying so hard to scare this family is in the end beaten down by the twin boys' mischief. They harass him into hiding and defeat.

I thought I'd tackle the cover this week....

With my head already in family portrait mode- I drew the kids posing in front of the Tudor mantle w/ Sir Simon's portrait hanging above them. Would he be popping out? Then I thought of the graffiti idea. The twins were going to be directly in the middle- but then I thought that would be where the title would go.  This was just too busy.
Book covers should be bold- graphic- grabbing.

What if I just focused on the portrait- and the relationship
the ghost has with those boys.

So I did this color sketch (I got a little carried away -'cuz it was fun. )
I kinda like it - he looks quite annoyed. I am planning
to continue with the story on my blog. I'll do black and white interiors
and a few "color plates". When I was little I read 
old hard covered books like "Ivanhoe" that belonged to my Grandmother -and I loved
turning the page to see the story come alive on 
beautiful full color plates - like finding a treasure in the middle of the pages.


  1. I remember that black and white movie version too! I liked that cranky ole ghost, and the way he warmed up to the girl. You've done a fine job of capturing how the boys torment him. His expression is great.

    I'm looking forward to seeing more of your process!

    You're killing me though ... what Haunted House in Amherst? And how were you touring it? See/feel anything? Fun!!

  2. Wow! What a fabulous project and so fitting for the season. I so want to go and find this book now. I don't know if I've read it before, sounds like great fun!

    What you've done here is so cool and clever! I like seeing your process and how you really thought out the idea. The cover is a great place to start too. I also like how you weren't afraid to change your initial idea even when you created other characters. You adjusted the idea to what works.

    I'll definitely check out your blog to see the progression you make on this. Thanks Zombie Mom!! Is there a possible graphic novel in that or what?!

  3. what a great idea, cant wait to see the entire process!

  4. This is awesome Kelly, I love seeing the thought process behind your final artwork.