The Big Spooky House: Picture Book

The Big Spooky House: Picture Book

by Donna L. Washington, Jacqueline Rogers

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Washington's story, taken from the oral tradition, features a big, strong AfricanAmerican man who was proud of his prowess and brags that he has never walked away from trouble. While on his way to volunteer for the army, he is caught in a downpour and takes shelter in a big spooky house "sittinguponabigspookyhill." Inside, the dilapidated house is really beautiful, and a full meal suddenly appears on a table in front of the fireplace. Sated, the big, strong man falls asleep and is later awaken by a mysterious cat in the fireplace who starts licking a red hot coal. The sinister creature inquires if the big, strong man is "gonna be here when John gets here?" He assures the cat that he will. When it happens two more times, with each cat more fearsome than the previous, the big, strong man decides that perhaps he should be a "gone man" and he speeds away. The story leaves readers dangling with just a hint of what might come next reflected in the mirror over the fireplace. 2000, Jump at the Sun/Hyperion, Ages 5 to 9, $15.99. Reviewer: Charlie Wyman
School Library Journal
Gr 1-5-Washington's retelling of this traditional ghost story may be recognized as "Martin's Coming" or "Pancho Villa." A big, strong, fight-picking man who loves trouble seeks shelter from a thunderstorm in an old spooky house. Inside, he finds that it is lavishly furnished. A table spread with a magnificent meal sits beside a crackling fire. After dinner, relaxing by the fire, he hears the clock strike midnight and the first of three scruffy black cats that chomp on the hot coals in the fireplace appears. Each one asks, "Are you gonna be here when John gets here?" The third, the size of a pony, eats up the other two and by now the big, strong, fighting man is terrified. "He was a BIG man! He was a STRONG man! He was a GONE man!" Here the story ends, leaving readers dangling. Turning the page, the third cat is shown cowering in the fireplace. The mirror above reflects one huge fiery eye and one scruffy ear. There's lots of room for speculation in this spooky tale. Could this mirror image be John or just the next cat? Rogers creates spooky imagery with her use of gray tones and facial expressions. The main character is portrayed as an enormous, burly African American with a jaunty stride. A good read-aloud and discussion book, especially at Halloween.-Karen Land, Greenport Public School, NY Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Kirkus Reviews
This ghost story has more than a touch of the shaggy dog about it and would certainly be more successful as a performance piece than as a storybook. In Washington's version of the traditional scary tale, the fall guy is "a big man, a strong man" who not only has never backed away from a fight, he spoils for them (The Story of Kwanzaa, 1997, etc.). When he is challenged by one of the ladies in town to join the volunteer army, he accepts and sets off to join up. He turns down any assistance on the way—he wants no help—but when rain starts falling in the middle of the night, he takes cover in a spooky house on a hill. Although no one is in evidence, the door creaks open for him, a fire is blazing in the hearth, and a sumptuous meal is set out. Lesser mortals would flee, but not our big, strong man. A cat appears, leaps in the fire, licks upon a hot coal, and asks, "Are you going to be here when John gets here?" "And past that," says the man. A bigger cat appears, leaps in the fire, chews on a burning log, asks the same question, gets the same answer. When yet a third cat, big as a pony, arrives, eats the other two cats, licks the fireplace clean, and pops the question, our big man, our strong man, takes a powder. Why did he flee? Who is John? Who's that even bigger cat reflected in the mirror? Dunno. Even as material for a storyteller, it is hard to see how this ending works, though, thankfully, the same can't be said for Rogers's watercolors, which are terrific scene-setters, if abandoned at the climax. (Picture book. 4-7)

Product Details

Hyperion Books for Children
Publication date:
Edition description:
1 ED
Product dimensions:
8.82(w) x 11.32(h) x 0.36(d)
Age Range:
4 - 7 Years

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