B.C.R. Fegan combines the whimsical spirit of a Dr. Seuss book with the spine-tingling mystery of a haunted house in his picture book Don’t Ever Look Behind Door 32.
The inevitable Dr. Seuss comparisons (a plus for any children’s author) are apparent from the first lines of the book: “Welcome to the magical/ Hotel of Hoo/ Where I’ll be your host,/ Mr. Nicholas Noo.” But Fegan inhabits darker territory than anything in Dr. Seuss’s oeuvre as Noo guides readers through a tour of the rooms in the hotel, starting with room number 1, and always warning to avoid door 32.
Through the eyes of a young boy and girl, we’re introduced to the residents of those rooms: grumpy clowns, fidgety knights, zombies, goblins, vampire mermaids, ghosts, fairies, elves and more. Curiosity grows, and the tension ramps up as the tour proceeds. If Noo is showing these scary things, what won’t he reveal? What’s being kept hidden behind door 32? Finally disclosed at the end of the story, it turns out to be a sensible, satisfying, yet surprising revelation.
Fegan and illustrator Lenny Wen strike just the right mood: not too scary, yet strange, mysterious, and amusing throughout. Wen’s beautiful illustrations feature monsters with big eyes, smiling faces, and vibrant colors, while Fegan’s rhymed text keeps a steady, amusing rhythm: “There are miniature giants in number 13./ They all seem like us: you’ll see what I mean./ And while you both wonder why none of them grew,/ Don’t even contemplate door 32.”
Just as his previous book Henry and the Hidden Treasure hit the mark on young sibling relationships, Don’t Ever Look Behind Door 32 does the same as an introduction to the traditionally spooky. It’s a perfect book to captivate young children, as well as an excellent example that “suspenseful” doesn’t have to mean “frightening.”
Also available in hardcover and ebook.