|Illustration by Louis Darling|
Cleary also describes with emotional clarity the satisfaction children (and adults) can have in scaring themselves - in controlling the amount of fear they experience. Ramona finds her own mask terrifying and hides it under a couch cushion so she doesn't have to look at it. But then she periodically "would lift the cushion for a quick glimpse of her scary mask before she clapped the pillow over it again. Scaring herself was such fun." And while Ramona finds looking at her mask scary, when she wears it - and therefore can't see it herself - she feels brave. That is, until she feels lost and alone.
|Illustrations by Kurt Werth|
Written five years before Ramona the Pest, A Tiger Called Thomas by Charlotte Zolotow also uses Halloween and costumes to tackle issues of identity, but from a very different perspective. Thomas, who has just moved to a new neighborhood, is too shy to approach any of his neighbors. (And why should he?!? Shouldn't they come over and greet the new arrivees? But that is neither here nor there.) But safely inside his tiger costume, Thomas is brave enough to trick-or-treat, feeling secure that no one will recognize him. Much to his surprise, everyone knows who he is! (A Tiger Called Thomas wass reissued with new illustrations in 1988 and again in 2003 and will be published again next year with yet another set of illustrations. There was an article in the March/April 2017 issue of The Horn Book about the different versions, but unfortunately it is not online.)
Masks - literal and figurative - can embolden us, change us, or render us invisible or anonymous.
But I still don't like Halloween.