Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
When I was growing up in the South, writes McKissack, we called the half hour just before nightfall the dark-thirty. Her nine stories and one poem, however, are far too good to be reserved for that special time when it is neither day nor night and when shapes and shadows play tricks on the mind. These short works-haunting in both senses of the word-explore aspects of the African American experience in the South, from slavery to the Underground Railroad and emancipation, from the era of Pullman cars to the desegregation of buses, from the terror of the Ku Klux Klan to '60s activism. Here, African Americans' historical lack of political power finds its counterbalance in a display of supernatural power: ghosts exact vengeance for lynchings; slaves use ancient magic to enforce their master's promise of emancipation. As carefully executed as McKissack's writings, Pinkney's black-and-white scratchboard illustrations enhance the book's atmosphere, at once clearly regional in setting and otherworldly in tone. Ages 8-12. (Oct.)
Children's Literature - Susie Wilde
This 1992 Newbery Award runner-up has a somber quality. It also won the 1993 Coretta Scott King Author Award. Most of the stories have undercurrents of racial prejudice, which give a super-special spine-tingle. Stories include backdrops such as the Montgomery bus boycott and the KKK of the thirties. McKissack skillfully blends history, story and truth to profoundly affect readers eight and up.
Children's Literature - Debra Briatico
This collection contains ten original ghost stories with African American themes ranging from the time of Slavery to the Civil Rights Era. Keeping with the oral storytelling tradition, these tales should be told at a special time called the dark-thirty--the half hour before sunset--when ghosts seem all too believable and shadows play tricks on the mind. Suspenseful, heart-stopping stories such as "Boo Mama," "The Chicken-Coop Monster," and "The Woman in the Snow" are accompanied by eerie black and white scratch-board illustrations.
School Library Journal
Gr 4 Up-- Ten original stories, all with a foundation in African-American history or culture. Some are straight ghost stories, many of which are wonderfully spooky and all of which have well-woven narratives. There is a tale from slavery times; a story set among the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters; and one from the 1940s segregated South, in which a black man's ghost brings revenge upon the white klansman who murdered him. Strong characterizations are superbly drawn in a few words. The atmosphere of each selection is skillfully developed and sustained to the very end. Pinkney's stark scratch-board illustrations evoke an eerie mood, which heightens the suspense of each tale. This is a stellar collection for both public and school libraries looking for absorbing books to hook young readers. Storytellers also will find it a goldmine. --Kay McPherson, Central Atlanta-Fulton Public Library, GA
Janice Del Negro
McKissack identifies these 10 tales as "original stories rooted in African American history and the oral storytelling tradition." She prefaces each with a short introduction explaining the historical incident or custom from which it grew--for example, slavery, belief in a psychic ability known as "the sight," or the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott that began in 1955. The most successful of the stories have the structure and style of traditional folktales as well as the shiver-up-the-back feeling of "real" ghost stories. In "Justice," an innocent black man lynched by the Klan comes back to haunt the man who engineered his death; the sad tale of "The Woman in the Snow" shows prejudice and cruelty overcome; and in the semi-autobiographical story "The Chicken Coop Monster," a young girl becomes secure in the knowledge that love casts out fear. An accessible collection on a popular topic, easy to booktalk to a wide range of readers.
From the Publisher
"...a stellar collection..."School Library Journal, starred review
"These original, short and ghostly stories, which come with brief historical introductions placing them in the American South, are grand for reading aloud."The New York Times Book Review