The Banshee

The Banshee

by Eve Bunting
     
 

“SCREE . . . SCREE . . .”

Terry is half asleep when he hears the wailing, rising and falling like the waves of the sea. He wishes it were a dream, but he knows it isn’t. It isn’t an owl screeching, either. Or the Flannerys’ old cat. Could it be the Banshee—the ghostly figure of Irish legend who wails outside a house when death

Overview

“SCREE . . . SCREE . . .”

Terry is half asleep when he hears the wailing, rising and falling like the waves of the sea. He wishes it were a dream, but he knows it isn’t. It isn’t an owl screeching, either. Or the Flannerys’ old cat. Could it be the Banshee—the ghostly figure of Irish legend who wails outside a house when death is near?

Why would she come here?

In spite of his fears, Terry goes out to confront her. Is it really the Banshee, or . . . something else?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
When Terry, a young Irishman, is wakened by the sound of wailing outside, he's worried that a banshee (the Gaelic omen of death) is coming for his frail brother, Liam. Reasoning that even a ghost may be open to a bribe, Terry ventures into the backyard with his “best thing,” a prized peacock feather: “I'd give it to her. Then I'd ask her to go away and leave our family be.” Bunting's evocative prose (“It's December in Ireland. Cold. The linoleum is ice under my feet”) and McCully's moody nocturnal scenes, lit by harsh moonlight, make Terry's fears and ruminations vivid. And all the pieces of a ghost story are there: a remote, dead-of-night setting in a land well-known for magic; the sense of isolation that fear can trigger; eerie backstories and details (a banshee, readers learn, wears “a long black robe, like a nun's, only hers was made of cobwebs”). But these elements don't quite coalesce into a genuine chill. Ultimately, it feels like Bunting and McCully (who previously teamed up for That's What Leprechauns Do) want to reassure readers rather than leave them with goose bumps. Ages 5–8. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
One night Terry, our young narrator, hears what he believes to be the wailing of a banshee, a ghost who wails outside a house where according to Irish superstition there may be a death. His mother discounts his fears. But Terry remembers the stories and is particularly worried about his sickly brother Liam. Hearing the "SCREE" again, Terry bravely decides to go out into the cold dark night to offer his prized peacock feather to the banshee in exchange for leaving. Finally confronting his fears, Terry discovers that the sound is only the wind. Just to be sure, however, he leaves the feather as an offering before running home to his safe bed. McCully illustrates the text in small watercolor scenes; but, she fills a few double pages with dark, melodramatic images: perceptions of reality as Terry talks to shadows and the flapping laundry. Transparent deep blues and blacks with skeleton-like black tree branches create the scene with purple hints of a moonlit sky. Perhaps, the banshee was there to accept the feather…? Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
Gr 1–3—With her usual flair, Bunting produces a lively, well-paced story, providing a full measure of tension and suspense. Set in Ireland and told in first person, the tale introduces Terry as he cowers beneath the covers one moonlit night while the wind rattles the windows and wailing sounds echo around the house. Fearful that a banshee—a ghostly figure of Irish lore that moans relentlessly when death is near—is haunting his family, he decides to offer the creature his most precious possession: a shimmering, beautiful blue peacock feather. In his ever-so-tentative but brave exploration of the backyard, Terry conquers his fears and matches wits with the screeching wind, giving a satisfying ending to this scary story. McCully's robust illustrations, delivered in rough-edged, cameo images alternating with spreads, spike the tension, and the dark-toned watercolors lend appropriate eeriness. Bunting's words and McCully's expressive visualizations bring vibrancy and believability to the tale. A great Halloween read but also one to share on St. Patrick's Day or any time of the year.—Barbara Elleman, Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Amherst, MA

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780618821624
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
09/14/2009
Pages:
32
Product dimensions:
8.70(w) x 11.40(h) x 0.40(d)
Lexile:
AD450L (what's this?)
Age Range:
4 - 7 Years

Meet the Author

Eve Bunting is a beloved children's author has written more than 200 books for young people. She lives in Pasadena, California.

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