Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Rattle of the Bones: The Bones of Fred McFee by Eve Bunting

Tossed thoughtlessly among a pile of pumpkins on their wagon, a brother and sister bring home an innocuous-looking plastic skeleton and cheerfully set about decorating their yard and front door for Halloween. But when they name the skeleton Fred McFee and hang him high in their sycamore tree, he seems to take on a life (or death) of his own.

He isn't real, but it's hard to tell.
He's plastic, head to toe.
But all of his bones are joined so well,
No one would ever know.

At night when the wind howls overhead,
With ghoulish, ghastly glee,
Our skeleton dances the dance of the dead
There in our sycamore tree.

But then, as Fred McFee swings high in their tree, the hens stop laying, the rooster seems to be gone, and their dog Sam howls all night long. What's even spookier is Fred's sudden disappearance from the tree and the appearance of a mysterious fresh-dug rectangle of earth below.

"There's a mound below that is long and lean,
Beneath a sycamore tree.
And the mound is brown in frost green grass,
We know what it might be!"

The children can only look at each other in amazement, respectfully limn the grave with a border of shells, and wonder how it all transpired. And still, as they wonder...

When the wind howls overhead,
And shakes the sycamore tree,
We hear the dancing of the dead--
The bones of Fred McFee.

Eve Bunting's dark and windswept verse and Kurt Cyrus' scratchboard and watercolor illustrations go together like black cats and witches' brooms in this wonderful Halloween readaloud. Pair it with Bunting's fun and funny In the Haunted House, in which a girl bravely leads her dad through the neighborhood house of horrors--and have a HAPPY HALLOWEEN!



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