Books and Recordings

The Ghost Catcher: A Bengali Folktale

Ghost Catcher

2009, August House Publishers (LittleFolk) Illstrated by Kristen Balouch
1-800-284-8784 or

Irma Simonton Black and James H. Black Award for Excellence in Children's Literature awarded by Bank Street College of Education -- Honor Book
Winner of a 2009 Storytelling World Honor Award

To download lesson plans and a Common Core Standards Checklist for this book from August House Publishers click here.

In this Bengali folktale, a generous barber uses his wits and his trusty mirror to outsmart some scary, but unintelligent ghosts. The beautiful illustrations are by Kristen Balouch who recently won the Ezra Jack Keats Award.

"A Bengali barber loves stories so much he refuses payment when he hears one. His wife worries about their family's welfare and sends him away until he can ensure that they won't starve. Upon leaving, the barber immediately meets a hungry ghost. The quick-thinking barber threatens to trap him in his mirror, whereupon the ghost, aghast, agrees to gather money for the barber and to build a shed and fill it with rice. Unfortunately, the ghost's uncle sees his nephew at work and vows to teach the barber a thing or two about respect. If the barber is to save himself, he will have to use his wits and his haircutting tools to come up another plan right away. Balouch's bright, memorable illustrations create a fanciful Indian setting with crisp, colorful figures digitally placed on a fabric background for texture. Teamed with spirited and eminently tellable prose, they conjure up a colorful, magical land where cleverness can save the day."

- Kirkus Reviews

"A fluid retelling of a traditional folktale. A good-hearted barber, who sets up his business under a tree "in a small village in Bengal," does not like to charge customers who are down on their luck. His angry wife finally tells him not to return home without money. He goes to the next village and spends the night under a tree, where he encounters a ghost who threatens to eat him. The barber holds up a mirror and scares the ghost into bringing him a pot of gold and building a house filled with rice. When the ghost's uncle appears, the clever barber manages to frighten him with the same trick and ends up with a second building filled with rice and more gold. At the end, the man is back under his village tree with enough riches to share, surrounded by people who tell him stories while he trims their beards or cuts their hair. Digitally created illustrations in solid colors are printed on fabric, lending texture and depth to the artwork. The ghosts' whimsical facial expressions effectively show their gullibility, and the background colors shine through their bodies to emphasize their ethereal nature... A background note includes sources.

- School Library Journal

"A village barber in Bengal listens so sympathetically to his clients' tales of hardship that he can rarely bring himself to charge for his services. After his wife demands that he provide food for the family, the kind barber goes to the next village, thinking it "would be easier to accept money from strangers." There he encounters a demonic ghost, who threatens to eat him. Claiming that he is a "ghost catcher," the barber uses his wits and the gullible ghost's magic to gain a fortune. Storytellers Hamilton and Weiss relate the tale with economy and wit. In an appended note, they comment briefly on barbers in India and demons in Indian folklore and provide sources for the tale. The illustrations' lyrical lines, colorful forms, and linen-textured backdrop create a distinctive look that carries right through to the endpapers, which feature miniature portraits of the characters."

- Booklist

"A generous barber, an angry wife, and a fearful ghost form the ingredients for this funny, whimsical story from Bengal, retold by noted storytellers Martha Hamilton and Mitch Weiss. Last year, I was invited to read this story in manuscript form, a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Martha and Mitch use simple prose and quick turns of story, and the illustrations by Kristen Balouch, with their large flat blocks of color and strategically slanted perspective, convey a world completely suited to these characters, both ghostly and human."

- from the blog of award-winning author Uma Krishnaswami

"Children and adults alike will appreciate this splendid adaption of an old Bengali folktale. The unique, colorful illustrations serve as a magnificent back-drop to a witty story about generosity, financial needs, and resourcefulness. The Ghost Catcher uses a most satisfying blend of excitement and fun to convey its serious message about responding to people's needs.

- Yana V. Rodgers, Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children