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The Bones of Fred McFee

( 2 )


In this rhythmic story, an unsuspecting brother and sister bring a toy skeleton home from the harvest fair. They name it Fred McFee and hang it from a sycamore tree. Soon, eerie things begin to happen. And then on Halloween night, Fred vanishes!

A toy skeleton at Halloween provides menace and mystery.

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In this rhythmic story, an unsuspecting brother and sister bring a toy skeleton home from the harvest fair. They name it Fred McFee and hang it from a sycamore tree. Soon, eerie things begin to happen. And then on Halloween night, Fred vanishes!

A toy skeleton at Halloween provides menace and mystery.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Though this book is set near Halloween, children who enjoy a good shiver will want to read or hear it year-round."—School Library Journal
Publishers Weekly
This ominous book, thrillingly chillustrated in high-contrast scratchboard, describes an uncanny Halloween decoration. Fred McFee is just a toy skeleton dangling from a tree, but he makes two siblings nervous. "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!" Bunting's (Smoky Night) classic rhythms cultivate an eerie ambiguity; Fred vanishes and a grave appears. Seen from precipitous angles, Cyrus's (Sixteen Cows) realistic images of billowing curtains, glowing jack-o'-lanterns and a watchful owl will give readers goosebumps. Ages 5-8. (Sept.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
"There's a skeleton high in our sycamore tree, High as high can be. He was hung there by my sister and me...." Brought home from the fair and named by the children, he's only plastic, but he seems to have strange powers. On Halloween night he mysteriously disappears, and a grave appears under the tree. "When the wind howls overhead...We hear them dancing the dance of the dead—The bones of Fred McFee!" The spare verse makes a chilling read-aloud for the Halloween season, with room for speculating about what really happened. Scratch board with touches of intense color provides the organic structure for creating the trunk and branches of the old, twisted tree and the wind-tossed skeleton. Cyrus creates a mix of vignettes, focusing on details like the red wagon with its cargo of pumpkins and foot-dragging skeleton, along with full and double-page scenes with glowing jack-o-lanterns and dancing leaves. A fresh dash of Halloween spirit. 2002, Harcourt,
— Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-"There's a skeleton high in our sycamore tree,/High as high can be./He was hung up there by my sister and me,/High in our sycamore tree." With this spooky refrain, Bunting opens her ambiguously creepy tale. Strange things have been happening since the children brought the skeleton home, named it, and hung it up. The dog and rooster won't go near the tree, and the bones rattle and chatter in the dark, gusty night wind. The story, told in rhyme, keeps readers on the edge of their seats: is the skeleton made of plastic, as the children believe, or is it real? Cyrus's detailed, realistic illustrations, done in scratchboard and watercolor, are appropriately dark and are a perfect complement to the subtly scary mood of the text. Though this book is set near Halloween, children who enjoy a good shiver will want to read or hear it year-round. Pair it with Judy Sierra's The House That Drac Built (Harcourt, 1995) and Eve Bunting's Scary, Scary Halloween (Clarion, 1986) for a creepy Halloween storytime.-Heather E. Miller, Homewood Public Library, AL Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
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)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780152054236
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 9/1/2005
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 119,826
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 7.96 (w) x 11.46 (h) x 0.10 (d)

Meet the Author

EVE BUNTING has written over two hundred books for children, including the Caldecott Medal-winning Smoky Night, illustrated by David Diaz, and numerous novels. She lives in Southern California.

KURT CYRUS is the illustrator of M. T. Anderson's Whales on Stilts, and The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen. He lives in Cottage Grove, Oregon.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 11, 2007

    Bewitched by Fred McFee

    What an outstanding story! I was riveted from the first line i read and blown away by the fantastic illustrations. The book not only entices you to read more but also keeps you at the edge of your seat. The illustrations are both spine-tickling and beautiful at the same time. My children and I as well as my husband enjoy reading this captivating story and highly recommend it to those who love a good chill and who have an appreciation for phenomenal artwork.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 26, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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