By KL Pereira
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he very thought of Lovecraftian children’s books is enough to make me squirm with delight. I’ve been known to troll comic shops and bookstores in search of horror geared toward wee ones, both because I love picture books and because I have a plethora of nieces and nephews to induct into the weird cult of the Mythos. Of course I was excited to learn about Littlest Lovecraft, a new series of books created with an eye towards introducing Lovecraft to a younger generation of readers. I was also a bit skeptical as to how the intricacies of Lovecraft’s tales and worlds would translate to a younger audience.
The first book in the series, The Call of Cthulhu (which was funded through Kickstarter with much success) is a fully-illustrated, 64-page picture book that has some of the most gorgeous and eye-catching artwork I’ve seen in picture books for some time. The line art is very clean, with strong angles and a stark symmetry that appeals to readers of any age (Indeed, I’d hang a few of these spreads on my wall). Color is minimal here, used mostly in representing sinister objects (like the clay bas-relief that brings such horrific dreams), scenes where the dark green swamps and stormy seas dominate, or when Cthulhu himself rises. Flying through the blue swirl of the heavens, or gazing at the jagged spires rising from the sea, I found myself happy to get lost among the imagery.
Sadly, I found myself getting lost in the text, too. There are three narratives here. While the convention of telling stories within a story is not new or terribly confusing in itself, I’m not sure that the average nine-year-old could follow what is, at times, a bit convoluted in terms of plot (which is, of course, a risk when translating any work written for adults, especially one that was written almost a century ago). For an adult, the plot holes were frustrating and I found myself wishing that the editors had cut one of the storylines in order to really focus on telling a complete and flawlessly executed narrative.
The rhyme scheme was also distracting, especially because the text didn’t always seem to quite fit the meter, throwing the rhythm off and causing me to stumble (and start counting syllables – never a good way to stay interested in where a story is going).
While I love the idea of a bringing Lovecraft to a new generation, I wished the story here had been rendered differently, perhaps making it a bit more compelling and less convoluted. I found myself wanting to spend less time distracted by the inexact quatrains and hanging references, and more time immersed in the story and fantastic artwork.