Jacques Duquennoy is an author I’d never heard of until recently, but then fils aîné brought Ghost Party home from school and it became a major part of our lives. Translated from the French by Antonia Parkin and published by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books in 2004, it stars a ghost named Henry who invites his ghostly friends round to the castle for a dinner party. With each course, the guests turn the colour of the food or drink they’re consuming, until the final flourish – dessert so light it melts in the mouth, making Henry and his friends vanish altogether. That’s pretty much it for the plot, but the boys love it! In fact fils aîné (aged 5) says it’s his “best book ever”. I’ve just checked with him about what he likes best and he says “when they change colour and when they go invisible”. Fils cadet (aged 2) says his favourite part is when Henry says “Boo!”
As this demonstrates, the illustrations are simple but fun, and Henry gets up to all kinds of tricks. Since we first made Henry’s acquaintance, he has reappeared in the book bag several times and also been borrowed from the library.
There seems also to be an older, out of print, translation called Phantom Feast, published by Orchard Books in 1994, translator unknown. And, in the course of researching this post, I discovered to my joy that there are other books in the series to look out for… Loch Ness Ghosts and The Ghosts in the Cellar. Mind you, I won’t be paying £128.92 for that last one, even if it is a first edition!
We managed to borrow Loch Ness Ghosts (Frances Lincoln, 2005, tr. Antonia Parkin) from the library today and fils aîné reports that he maybe even likes it a little bit better than Ghost Party, which is saying something!
Henry reads in the newspaper that the Loch Ness Monster has been spotted again so he sets off with three friends to try and find it. Obviously, a bagpipe playing Scottish ghost by the name of MacShortbread lives in the castle on the loch and he helps them in their search. Now, in the best traditions of farce, Nessie appears behind the ghosts every time they turn away – the boys find this hysterical and scream “it’s the monster!” They go home disappointed, but when they get their photos developed (yes, the French edition predates digital cameras!), there’s a surprise in store…