THE BONES OF FRED MCFEE

A brother and sister bring home a plastic skeleton from the harvest fair, hang him in their sycamore tree, and name him Fred McFee. When the wind blows, his bones go clickety-clack. Old dog Sam now avoids the tree and “the rooster’s gone and the hens won’t lay, / since we got Fred McFee.” Then: “The dark is dropping like a cowl— / There’s no star to be seen. / What’s wrong with Sam? We hear him howl / This night of Halloween.” The next morning McFee has vanished, gone from the sycamore tree, but below is a mound they know is a grave and they mark the spot with pebbles and shells. Now when the wind howls and shakes the tree, “We hear them dancing the dance of the dead—those bones of Fred McFee!” Told in rhyme with the rhythm of an old narrative poem, the story will work as a scary read-aloud but it’s the attractive illustrations that cast the spell. The combination of smartly designed compositions and elongated perspectives creates an engrossingly eerie effect. The lines of the scratchboard and watercolors etch dimension into the shapes, pulling the scenes up in dramatic fashion. Jack-o’-lanterns shift from friendly to fearsome as they loom open-mouthed in the foreground. Fred is no namby-pamby skeleton; this is spookiness with attitude and a great new addition to Halloween shelves. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-15-202004-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2002

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Only for dedicated fans of the series.

HOW TO CATCH A MONSTER

From the How To Catch… series

When a kid gets the part of the ninja master in the school play, it finally seems to be the right time to tackle the closet monster.

“I spot my monster right away. / He’s practicing his ROAR. / He almost scares me half to death, / but I won’t be scared anymore!” The monster is a large, fluffy poison-green beast with blue hands and feet and face and a fluffy blue-and-green–striped tail. The kid employs a “bag of tricks” to try to catch the monster: in it are a giant wind-up shark, two cans of silly string, and an elaborate cage-and-robot trap. This last works, but with an unexpected result: the monster looks sad. Turns out he was only scaring the boy to wake him up so they could be friends. The monster greets the boy in the usual monster way: he “rips a massive FART!!” that smells like strawberries and lime, and then they go to the monster’s house to meet his parents and play. The final two spreads show the duo getting ready for bed, which is a rather anticlimactic end to what has otherwise been a rambunctious tale. Elkerton’s bright illustrations have a TV-cartoon aesthetic, and his playful beast is never scary. The narrator is depicted with black eyes and hair and pale skin. Wallace’s limping verses are uninspired at best, and the scansion and meter are frequently off.

Only for dedicated fans of the series. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4926-4894-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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THE UGLY PUMPKIN

A club-shaped pumpkin gets dissed by a customer, all the other pumpkins, even twisted apple trees, before the sight of a motley crop of hubbards, acorns and banana squash brings on a personal epiphany: “O my gosh / I’m a squash.” Endowed with a face and stick limbs, the gnarled narrator sits down at a Thanksgiving table with its new soulmates, then is last seen strolling down the lane hand in hand with a lumpy new friend. Written in doggerel—“A skeleton came for pumpkins / one bright and crispy day. / I asked if I could get a ride . . . / He laughed and said: No Way”—and illustrated in brightly colored paint-and-paper collage, this weak riff on the “Ugly Duckling” may not earn high marks for botanical accuracy (all pumpkins are squash), but it does feature plenty of visual flash. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-399-24267-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2005

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