It was 1958, and President Eisenhower was presiding over the post-war boom. And illustrator Robert Bright decided to write a gentle children’s book about a charming little ghost named Georgie. Bright had already written stories where George meets a magician and some attic-pilfering robbers. But eventually, he’d end up writing a book about Georgie’s Halloween.
It’s a fun book for Halloween, because Bright uses two colors – orange and black – for each of his illustrations. The first picture shows seven children dressed in costumes – there’s a witch, a pirate, and a clown. A dark black patch signals night behind them, making the costumes seem even more cheerful. And the book opens with a warm moment of appreciation. “Wherever there are children there is Halloween, with pumpkins and funny faces, with tricks and with treats.”
First Bright recaps the basics of his character. (Georgie lives in the attic of Mr. and Mrs. Whitaker, and he’s friends with Herman the cat and an owl named Miss Oliver.) Georgie was shy and stayed hidden – like a ghost should – which gives the story a kind of hushed magic. And of course when Halloween comes around, he doesn’t have to wear a costume, since “he was so especially perfect for Halloween just as he was.”
His mouse friends in the attic urge him to enter the yearly costume contest – though that doesn’t seem proper to Georgie. Even his owl friend, and Herman the cat, urge him to enter, and there’s a smiling moon, and a grinning pumpkin in his window. But instead, Georgie spies on the town’s party on the green, peeking out from behind a tall tree. Yet in each illustration he creeps closer to the costumed parade…
Bright really outdoes himself with this book’s illustrations. The moonlit house and the nighttime party scene both lend themselves to exciting effects with light and shadows. The white spaces seems to be the gleam of moonlight, and the dark lines turn into stark shadowy highlights. And in a two-page drawing, the light spaces are complemented by the orange of the children’s costumes.
Georgie hides behind a corn stalk, but the cat and the owl urge him on. And when he finally arrives, the children shout “It’s Georgie! It’s GEORGIE!” The happy ghost runs home to tell his mouse friends about his triumph. When he gets home, the mice will present him with their own award for best costume of all.
“And all the way he could still hear the children cheering.”