“The Most Haunted House in America”: Evanston author Jarrett Dapier discusses picture book

In the parking area next to Squeezebox Books & Music, three individuals wearing skeleton costumes beat their drums to a spooky beat. Children and parents cheered to the music as some were decked up in Halloween garb.

The children’s book “The Most Haunted House in America” was read aloud to the general public on Saturday at Evanston’s Squeezebox Books & Music. The novel, which was written by Evanston resident Jarrett Dapier, features the story of skeleton drummers at the White House’s Halloween event with spooky twists and turns.

Dapier told, “They’re invited to play the drums while youngsters trick-or-treat.” When they enter, they make a mistake and end up at a haunted ghost party where they run across several real ghosts.

Dapier drew on his personal experiences to create the novel. He was invited to play the drums at the White House for the first Halloween celebration of President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama in 2009. He played the drums for more than two hours with two other drummers while more than 2,500 kids and adults trick-or-treated. They were all costumed as skeletons.

Dapier recalled turning around that evening and telling himself, “I’ve got to remember this moment.” He claimed that seeing kids and their parents dancing to the rhythm of the drums gave him great satisfaction.

For the performance on Saturday, Dapier was accompanied by Evanston drummer Rick Kubes, who also performed with him at the White House. Jude Weinstein, an eighth-grader, and Kubes played the drums as Dapier read aloud.

It’s a great book, Weinstein added. “It’s so fun being able to bring it to life.” Tim Peterson, the proprietor of Squeezebox Books & Music, recalled his first assumption that the drumming demonstration would resemble a rock ‘n’ roll session.

Peterson remarked that the performance was more similar to a brooding soundtrack. As the play progressed, he could see Dapier directing and molding it. The dynamics, form, and shape of the piece were what Peterson found to be its strongest points. That was incredibly interesting and creepy. Then, it became incredibly exciting and fun.

Dapier believes that developing picture books with strong rhythms is crucial because they make for excellent read-aloud. Dapier claimed that when writing the book, which was illustrated by Lee Gatlin, he uses his drummer’s sense of rhythm. He filled in rhymes throughout the book with terms from the drumming world, such as “ghost notes,” “rim click,” and “ratamacue.”

After reading Michelle Obama’s autobiography “Becoming,” in which she discusses the 2009 skeleton drummers’ performance, Dapier started composing “The Most Haunted House in America.” “While reading the book, I almost got out of my chair. Dapier remarked, “I didn’t expect she was going to talk about that. “I genuinely said, ‘Okay, she’s writing about this in her memoir,’ at that point. Technically, this is history.

Despite the West Wing’s concerns about the event’s image during a time of economic hardship, Obama details her efforts to plan the Halloween celebration in her memoir. Obama stressed the value of entertainment, even in trying times.

According to Peterson, people’s life might become stressful during pandemics. He claimed that while keeping COVID-19 in mind, outdoor activities like Saturday’s reading enable group happiness.

Dapier believes that living in Evanston impacts his storytelling because of the creative people who reside here. Dapier stated, “It’s just inspiring because people who live here made me who I am. Especially for those with families, “Evanston is such a great, creative place to be.”

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