Monday, October 22, 2007

Super-size Pop-up: Haunted House by Jan Pienkowski

Its blurb says Jan Pienkowski's 1979 classic, Haunted House, is "the best-loved pop-up of all time." And the 2005 edition is "new and improved!"

Regardless of the hype, this is a clever, funny, and marvelously crafted book. The cover pictures a shiny, but worn front door, snake hanging from the mail slot, with a note proclaiming "Let yourself in." The text is a one-sided conversation, the remarks of the ailing homeowner as he takes his house-calling doctor on a tour. As the cover is opened, it reveals a creaky pop-up staircase with a ghost under the stairs, one behind the door flap, and a drop-down spider on his web under the stairs.

"Come in, Doctor. Yes, it's a quaint old place--chilly, though!"

As the poor doc follows from spooky room to spooky room and at last to the attic, the patient recites his symptoms. He can't sit still in the parlor with a gorilla, a whirling clock face and flying geese over the mantel. His appetite is flagging in a kitchen with a monster popping out of the stove, a giant cockroach in the oven and an octopus in the sink. He can't get anyone to visit in the guest suite with an octopus in the tub and a black cat rising out of the toilet.

The insomniac patient then leads the doctor on to his own bedchamber, where a skeleton jumps out of the chifferobe, vampire teeth rest in a glass inside the bedside table, and a ghost flickers above the bed. As the two finally reach the attic, a moving saw cuts its way out of a shipping crate from Transylvania and a giant vampire bat rises with enormous wings and bares its long teeth.

"Do you think it's all my imagination, Doctor? Doctor? Where are you....?"

To best set off its original wry premise, Pienkowski's book uses a large format (12 inches by six inches) and large, child-finger-friendly pop-ups, flaps, pull tabs, and thumb wheels to tell a really cool story of a visit to a super haunted house. And the price is right!

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  • Great book, I agree! This was a top pick when I was little, and I love revisiting it, though it's rather in bits at this point, I'm afraid.

    A little correction, though--it's actually an alligator/crocodile in the bathtub, not an octopus. The octopus, as you said, is in the kitchen (doing the washing up).

    By Anonymous iron thunder, at 12:24 AM  

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