Skeleton Man (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition)

Skeleton Man (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition)

4.2 52
by Joseph Bruchac
     
 

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Trust your dreams. Both my parents said that. That's our old way, our Mohawk way. The way of our ancestors. Trust the little voice that speaks to you. That is your heart speaking. But when those feelings, those dreams, those voices are so confusing, what do you do then?

Molly wakes up one morning and discovers that her parents have vanished. Social

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Overview

Trust your dreams. Both my parents said that. That's our old way, our Mohawk way. The way of our ancestors. Trust the little voice that speaks to you. That is your heart speaking. But when those feelings, those dreams, those voices are so confusing, what do you do then?

Molly wakes up one morning and discovers that her parents have vanished. Social Services turns her over to the care of a great-uncle, a mysterious man Molly has never met or even heard of before. Now she's started having dreams about the Skeleton Man from a spooky old Mohawk tale her father used to tell her...dreams that are trying to tell her something...dreams that might save her, if only she can understand them.

Editorial Reviews

Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books
Reluctant as well as eager readers...will relish this fast-paced supernatural chase.
Publishers Weekly
According to the gutsy sixth grade narrator of Bruchac's (Heart of a Chief; Sacagawea) latest novel, the book draws from the traditions of Native American stories, especially one about a "skeleton man," for its spine-tingling effects. Not long after Molly's parents mysteriously disappear one night, her "great-uncle" shows up to claim her, with photographs of her family that convince the adults around her (but not Molly) that he is a relative. In fact, the photos look suspiciously like those that belonged to her father, who grew up on a Mohawk reservation. Each night, the bony guardian locks her into her room, allowing her to attend school during the day. Molly relies on the deciphering of her dreams, her "warrior-girl" courage and the support of her quirky but compassionate teacher to solve the mystery and rescue her parents. The eerie figure of the semi-human creature pretending to be Molly's uncle is particularly well drawn: "His fingers spread out so wide that they look like the talons of a giant bird.... His eyes are twin blue flames burning from within his skull." The mix of traditional and contemporary cultural references adds to the story's haunting appeal, and the quick pace and suspense, particularly in the last few chapters, will likely hold the interest of young readers. Ages 10-14. (Sept.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly - Publishers Weekly
Drawing on traditions of Native American stories, Bruchac writes of a girl whose parents mysteriously disappear and a "great-uncle" who shows up to claim her, with "spine-tingling effects," wrote PW. "The mix of traditional and contemporary cultural references adds to the haunting appeal, and the quick pace and suspense will likely hold the interest of young readers." Ages 10-up. (Aug.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Does Molly have too much imagination, or is her uncle slowly poisoning her in a house of doom? Master storyteller Bruchac reshapes a ghost story from his Abenaki heritage and places it in a modern day setting. Molly loves the grisly tale about Lazy Uncle consuming himself down to dry bones and then devouring his relatives—until her own parents vanish and the spooky story becomes real. Or does it? The horror of Stephen King and the creepiness of R.L. Stine blend effectively with a background of Native-American culture. Throw in a touch of Hansel and Gretel and this spine-chilling mystery comes to life in ordinary details as well as macabre ones—a home without pictures, an old shed with a new padlock, a 40watt bulb. Even a bowl of corn flakes becomes menacing. Shadowy black and white illustrations add to the fear factor. Like most scary tales, this one has holes that will leave readers with questions. The answers, however, aren't as important as the maxims to be found in ancient tales¾people aren't always what they seem, or, in the face of evil, be brave and smart. This engaging ghost story begs to be read aloud—by candlelight. 2001, HarperCollins, $15.95. Ages 10 up. Reviewer: Betty Hicks
VOYA
There was once a lazy, greedy uncle who let others hunt while he waited in the lodge. One day, while everyone was out, he burned his finger badly in the fire and stuck it into his mouth to cool it. "Oooh," he said as he sucked the cooked flesh, "this tastes good!" One thing leads to another, until the greedy uncle is nothing but a skeleton. Of course, he is still hungry, and waits anxiously for his relatives to come home. Molly thought that this was just a fantastical story her Mohawk father told to scare her at night. The tale takes on heightened meaning when Molly's parents disappear and a man who claims to be her great-uncle steps forward to take her in. Molly knows she is in trouble when this man locks her room each night and watches her every move. Her dreams are haunted by the skeleton man, who begins to resemble her uncle, and by a rabbit that urges her to solve the mystery of her parents' disappearance. This wonderful, suspenseful story will keep readers guessing about the nature of great uncle and his relation to the skeleton man of Molly's dreams. Bruchac is especially strong at showing Molly's evolution from scared girl to a courageous young woman. References to native culture make the story even more vivid. This would be a perfect tale of the supernatural except for its disappointing ending that fails to satisfy the curiosity that the author has so ably aroused. Although it is true that the motivations of wicked people cannot always be known, it is a struggle to understand the strange behavior of skeleton man. Nevertheless this book will appeal to those who love scary stories. PLB $14.89. VOYA CODES: 4Q 3P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Willappeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2001, HarperCollins, 128p, $14.95. Ages 11 to 15. Reviewer: Alison Kastner
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 4-7-Bruchac weaves an incredibly scary story of a girl whose warm, contented family is suddenly torn apart. Molly's knowledge of and immersion in her Mohawk heritage is something she takes for granted, as are the wisdom and strength that come from understanding the traditional tales and listening to one's dreams. She sets the stage as she tells one of her father's favorite stories about a man who is hungry and eats himself and then everyone around except for one clever young girl. Molly then discloses that her own parents have suddenly disappeared. An eerie, stick-thin old man arrives claiming to be her only kin using the pictures from her father's wallet. Adults on the scene vary from being clueless to well intentioned but ineffectual. Brought to skeleton man's house and locked in a room every evening, Molly keeps trying to find a way out, eventually finding that heeding her dreams, combined with some great detective work, does the trick. Better than many mystery writers, who make the clues obvious, Bruchac makes every word add to the tension right up to the final few pages. Details of video cameras and computers help to sustain belief in a highly improbable plot. The suspense draws readers in and keeps them engaged. In the classic horror tradition, Bruchac offers a timely tale that will make hearts beat and brows sweat, and it has the bonus of a resourceful heroine to put the world right again.-Carol A. Edwards, Sonoma County Library, Santa Rosa, CA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Bruchac (The Journal of Jesse Smoke, p. 655, etc.) sets this short nail-biter, based on a Mohawk legend-about a man with an appetite so insatiable that he eats himself down to bones, then goes after his relatives-in modern New York state. Despite her protests, when Molly's parents suddenly disappear, she's handed over to a tall, thin stranger claiming to be her great-uncle. Molly can't convince anyone, except a sympathetic but powerless teacher, that she's in danger. But as she is locked into her new room each night, seldom catches even a glimpse of her captor's face, and discovers that he has a closed-circuit TV camera trained on her door, she recalls a scary tale her Mohawk father tells. She also begins having strange dreams: of being pursued, and of a rabbit who offers warnings and guidance. Those dreams turn real when she escapes, finds her parents imprisoned in an adjoining building, then leads her captor on a desperate run through dark woods to a (perhaps final) confrontation on a high, rickety bridge. Bruchac adds believable details, vigorously cranks up the suspense, and pits a deliciously ghastly creature who likes to play with his food against a resourceful young heroine who draws both on courage and cultural tradition to come out on top. A natural for under-the-blanket reading. (Fiction. 10-12)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780613666053
Publisher:
Demco Media
Publication date:
12/01/2003
Edition description:
THIS EDITION IS INTENDED FOR USE IN SCHOOLS AND LIBRARIES ONLY
Pages:
128
Product dimensions:
5.25(w) x 7.75(h) x (d)
Age Range:
10 - 13 Years

Read an Excerpt

Skeleton Man
Chapter One
Footsteps on the Stair

I'm not sure how to begin this story. For one thing, it's still going on. For another, you should never tell a story unless you're sure how it's going to end. At least that's what my sixth-grade teacher, Ms. Shabbas, says. And I'm not sure at all. I'm not sure that I even know the beginning. I'm not sure if I'm a minor character or the heroine. Heck, I'm not even sure I'll be around to tell the end of it. But I don't think anyone else is going to tell this story.

Wait! What was that noise?

I listen for the footsteps on the stairs, footsteps much heavier than those an elderly man should make. But it's quiet, just the usual spooky nighttime creaking of this old house. I don't hear anyone coming now. If I don't survive, maybe they'll all realize I should have been taken seriously and then warn the world!

Warn the world. That's pretty melodramatic, isn't it? But that is one of the things I do well, melodrama. At least that is what Ms. Shabbas says. Her name is Maureen Shabbas. But Ms. Showbiz is what we all call her, because her main motive for living seems to be torturing our class with old Broadway show tunes. She starts every day by singing a few bars of one and then making it the theme for the day. It is so disgustingly awful that we all sort of like it. Imagine someone who loves to imitate Yul Brynner in The King and I, a woman with an Afro, no less, getting up and singing "Shall We Dance?" in front of a classroom of appalled adolescents. Ms. Showbiz. And she has the nerve to call me melodramatic!

But I guess I am. Maybe this whole thing is a product of my overactive imagination. If that turnsout to be so, all I can say is who wouldn't have an overactive imagination if they'd heard the kind of stories I used to hear from Mom and Dad?

Dad had the best stories. They were ones his aunties told him when he was growing up on the Mohawk Reserve of Akwesasne on the Canadian side. One of my favorites was the one about the skeleton monster. He was just a human being at first, a lazy, greedy uncle who hung around the longhouse and let everyone else hunt for him. One day, alone in the lodge, waiting for the others to come home with food, Lazy Uncle burned his finger really badly in the fire and stuck it into his mouth to cool it. "Oooh," he said as he sucked the cooked flesh, "this tastes good!" (Isn't that gross? I love it. At least, I used to love it.)It tasted so good, in fact, that he ate all the flesh off his finger. "Ah," he said, "this is an easy way to get food, but I am still hungry."

So he cooked another finger, and another, until he had eaten all his fingers. "Oooh," he said, "that was good, but I am still hungry." So he cooked his toes and ate them. He cooked his feet and ate them. He cooked his legs and ate them. He cooked his right arm and then his left. He kept on until he had cooked his whole body and eaten it, and all that was left was a skeleton. When he moved, his bones rubbed together: tschick-a-tschick-tschick-a-tschick.

"Ah," he said in a voice that was now just a dry whisper. "That was good, but I am still hungry. I hope that my relatives come home soon."

And when his relatives came home, one by one, they found that the lodge was dark except for the glow of the cooking fire. They could see a shadowy shape beckoning to them from the other side of the fire. They could hear a sound like this: tschick-a-tschick-tschick-a-tschick.

"Come in, my relatives," Skeleton Man whispered. "I have been waiting for you."One by one all of his relatives came into the lodge. Skeleton Man caught them and ate them, all but one. She was his niece, and she had been playing in her favorite spot down by the river that flowed through the gorge. She was late coming home because she had seen a rabbit that had fallen into the river. She had rescued it from drowning and warmed it in her arms until it was able to run away.

When the little girl came to the lodge, she was surprised at how quiet it was. She should have heard people talking and laughing, but she didn't hear anything. Something was wrong. Slowly, carefully, she approached the door of the lodge. A strange sound came from the shadows within: tschick-a-tschick-tschick-a-tschick. Then a dry voice called out to her.

"My niece," Skeleton Man whispered. "Come into the lodge. I have been waiting for you."

That voice made her skin crawl. "Where are my parents?" she asked."They are here. They are here inside," Skeleton Man whispered. "Come in and be with them."

"No," the girl said, "I will not come inside."

"Ah," Skeleton Man replied in his dry, thin voice, "that is all right. I will come out for you."

Then Lazy Uncle, the Skeleton Man, walked out of the lodge. His dry bones rubbed together as he walked toward the little girl: tschick-a-tschick-tschick-a-tschick.

The girl began to run, not sure where to go. Skeleton Man would have caught her and eaten her if it hadn't been for that rabbit she'd rescued from the river. It appeared on the path before her.

"I will help you because you saved me," said the rabbit. "Follow me."

Then the rabbit helped the little girl outwit Skeleton Man. It even showed her how to bring everyone Skeleton Man had eaten back to life.

My mom and dad told me stories like that all the time. Before they vanished. Disappeared. Gone, just like that.

I was on TV when they disappeared. You probably saw me on Unsolved Mysteries. The news reporter said into her microphone, "Child left alone in house for over three days, terrified, existing on cornflakes and canned food." Actually I went to school on Tuesday and called out for pizza once. Mom had left money on her dresser when they went out that Saturday evening and never returned.

Skeleton Man. Copyright (c) by Joseph Bruchac . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Meet the Author

Joseph Bruchac is the author of Skeleton Man, The Return of Skeleton Man, Bearwalker, The Dark Pond, and Whisper in the Dark, as well as numerous other critically acclaimed novels, poems, and stories, many drawing on his Abenaki heritage. Mr. Bruchac and his wife, Carol, live in upstate New York, in the same house where he was raised by his grandparents.

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