Leo: A Ghost Story
illustrated by Christian Robinson
Most people cannot see ghosts. Can you?
A New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Book of 2015
A Boston Globe Best Book of 2015
A Kirkus Best Picture Book of 2015
A Publisher's Weekly Best Picture Book of 2015
★ "Together, words and pictures construct a whimsical, delightful story that deeply respects the child. And in Jane, they create a brilliant heroine whose powers lie within her wit, her open mind, and her freedom of play. Dazzling."
—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
★ "It’s a warm and wise story about acceptance trumping difference—including that between life and death."
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
★ "A whimsical tale from Barnett aptly accompanied by enthralling artwork by Robinson. What’s not to drool over?"
—School Library Journal, starred review
★ “A tender, touching story of friendship and the power of imagination.”
—Booklist, starred review
★ "Barnett and Robinson celebrate play, as Jane breaks gender roles and includes Leo among her imaginary friends.... Will he be able to explain himself without blowing his cover? This deceptively simple story examines deep themes of perception and truth, friendship and loyalty."
—Shelf Awareness, starred review
"Christian Robinson, the book’s illustrator, is one of the most exciting children’s book artists working today...I love the palette of “Leo”: black, white, gray and various shades of moody blue, in a mix of acrylic paint and chunky construction-paper collage. Leo is a simple white ghostly outline with Brylcreemed-looking hair and a bow tie. The living people are done in varying blue tones. Jane is sapphire-skinned but reads African-American to me, with her braided or twisted hair — drawn as cheerful little dots — in a high side ponytail. The look of the book is mod and sparky enough to delight design-loving parents, while the text, by Mac Barnett is wry, evocative and rich. “After dinner Jane returned to her room and gave Leo a sword. They snuck into a cave, slew a dragon, and stole all his loot. When Leo closed his eyes, he could almost see the gold coins and green scales.” The story has a light touch, but there’s so much depth: a fearful ghost, a take-charge girl, an interracial friendship, and a tale in which fear is integrally and sweetly tied to positive qualities of imagination."
—New York Times
"Terrific" and "tender."
—The Wall Street Journal
"Barnett and Robinson are a picture-book dream team. As always Robinson shows that he is a genius of mood—shades of blue and heavy black lines cast a melancholy glow—and posture....Despite Leo’s ghost status there is nothing spooky about this moving story of friendship, acceptance, and belonging."
—The Boston Globe
"This innocent yet sophisticated story will appeal to small listeners and their favorite adults."
—The Washington Post
"Leo's plight will strike a chord with any kid who has felt lonely or left out...the book emphasizes a certain sweetness with Barnett's stripped down prose and Christian Robinson's adorable illustrations."
“A heartening parable of seeing through difference, meeting the unfamiliar with unflinching friendliness, and dignifying the reality of the other.”
“One particularly great thing about this book is that the pictures are all drawn in different shades of blue. It taps into underlying melancholy of Leo’s situation: Leo, of course, is a ghost who haunts a house until its new inhabitants make it clear that they have no interest in sharing the space with him. So the ghost boy makes the sad decision to relocate, and finds—and then saves—a new friend in the process. The story doesn’t tell us how he became a ghost at such a young age, and it doesn’t promise that his imaginative new friend will always trust him. But that ambiguity keeps it from falling into the syrupy-sweet traps that make so many kids’ books so irritating.”
—The Daily Beast
"This tender, wistful tale of friendship, innocence, and belief is an absolute joy—simply and movingly told, with quirky illustrations that tug at the heartstrings even as they raise a smile."
—Teach Early Years
"At it's heart, this tale is an affirmation of friendship and acceptance, with Leo learning that a true friend will love him as he is... It’s also a powerful paen to the wonders of a child’s imagination, and the intricate games about knights and dragons, golden treasures and glorious feasts, initiated by go-getter Jane, have a familiar resonance about them that will make parents smile."