This is a fantastically complex picture story book by illustrator Alastair Graham. It depicts all the ghostly and grisly goings on in the Hotel Splendide. Each page introduces new elements into the story, and prompts on the left hand page guide you as to what new things you might be looking for.
There are always hordes of other things going on in this richly detailed book, so it is important for the child to have their wits about them as they engage in what is basically a story book eye spy.
The pictures are humorous as well as a little spooky, and there is the perfect balance of humour and ghostliness that makes this a sure fire winner with readers from about the ages of seven to ten.
It mainly involves monsters, ghosts and ghouls and would be perfect for boys, particularly those who struggle with the more traditional narrative text, but who perhaps respond better to film, television or graphic novels. There is a real comic book element to the book.
The book would be hard to read in large groups as the illustrations are very busy and there is a great deal going on in every page. It is something that would give much more to the reader alone or in small groups of two or three where the children could work together to find all the different elements of the story.
In terms of education, it is interesting to look at how the author builds the story without words, and how he weaves lots of different story lines together to make up the plot.
It would also be good to look at ways that you can introduce both humour and fear into a story, and how to balance the two elements so that the book is enjoyable and exciting without being too frightening.
The different strands of narrative in the book raise lots of questions, and it might be good to have question and answer sessions after studying each page or the book as a whole, so that you can check to see if the children comprehend what they are seeing, and also answer any queries they might have.
It would be interesting to get the children to write down their own stories based on what they see in the pictures, or to get them to write down the individual story strands the book introduces, as straight narratives.
It would also be fun to create their own eye spy style story pages which they can illustrate themselves and provide clues for other readers to find the things they have included in their pictures.
This is an excellent way of introducing quite sophisticated methods of reading a story without them actually having to read any words at all. I recommend it highly for older boys who might be struggling with regular books, as a way into getting them comfortable with narrative.
There is also a similar book by Alastair Graham called Full Moon Afloat.