This is a modern adaptation of a Tyrolean folktale.
The element of the unexplained is a key to the narrative – we never learn why Otilla has run away or how the skull and skeleton became separated, but I found myself wanting a happy ending, which is really weird when you are talking about a friendship between a skull and a child.
I think that children in the middle to upper end of primary school would enjoy this book. The illustrations are haunting and beautiful. Otilla’s eyes express strong emotions that reach your from the murky background.
The book ends with an explaination by Jon Klassen about how his brain changed the original story that he had read in a library, and this is his own version. His ability to honour his own subconscious is the strong thread of magic to be found here.
A dark forest, snow and a castle full of masks make a wonderful scary story that intrigued me and is still making me think.
Published by Walker Books 2023