Gus Was a Friendly Ghost

Gus Cover

Written by Jane Thayer, Illustrated by Seymour Fleishman

William Morrow & Co, 1961

There was once a friendly ghost, by the name of Gus.  He lived in an old house in the country with apple trees and lilacs in the yard.

Eek!  It’s a:  Ghost!

The house where Gus lives is the summer home of the Scott family and when they are there, Gus stays in the attic and makes noises.  The Scotts don’t believe in ghosts, so they joke about having one in the attic and everyone is happy.  When autumn rolls around, the Scotts leave and Gus is left alone and bored.  One night, he goes for a walk and meets a mouse, who is freezing out in the cold, so Gus invites him to come spend the winter with him.  The winter passes happily, as Gus and Mouse play games and stay warm and Gus cooks all sorts of delicious food for Mouse.  But when the Scotts return, Mouse is extremely upset and tries everything to scare them away.  Gus has to finally put some serious rules in place and the two learn to live in harmony with each other and the Scotts.

See what I mean about the patterns?

See what I mean about the patterns?

This is another one of the books that I had when I was a little girl.  I loved the story, but really loved the artwork, which is all colored in shades of black, purple and orange.  To this day, when I see purple and orange together, I am reminded of Gus.  There are lots of patterns in the artwork, as well, with wallpapers, chairs, pillows, bedspreads and curtains featuring lines and criss-crosses and flowers.  It gave the Scott’s summer house a certain cozy and old-timey appeal to have so many complex patterns.  As decorating has veered sharply into simplicity and solid colors over the years, all these designs serve to give the book an even more nostalgic feeling.

Author Jane Thayer’s real name was Catherine Woolley.  She was a successful writer of books for older children and her publisher suggested she use a pen name for her picture books, so she chose her grandmother’s name.  She wrote actively for 45 years, publishing more than 80 books.  Gus became a series, with seven books altogether.  Illustrator Seymour Fleishman was even more prolific, providing artwork to over 100 books.  And these two suggest that creating books for children must be good for your health, as Mr. Fleishman lived to the age of 94 and Ms. Woolley made it to 100.

And what did we learn?  What I take away from this book is that living together happily requires respect and consideration from everyone involved.

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