Wee Winnie Witch's Skinny: An Original African American Scare Tale

Overview


In the vein of her distinctive African American folktales from collections like HER STORIES comes a thrillingly creepy witch tale from award-winning author Virginia Hamilton, with art by Barry Moser.

Virginia Hamilton draws upon her extensive knowledge of folktales in this "scare tale," in which young James Lee discovers his Uncle Big Anthony has been cursed by a Wee Winnie Witch, who rides him like a broom across the night sky! When the witch captures James Lee and takes him ...

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Moser, Barry (illustrator) New York, NY, U.S. A 2004 Hard Cover First printing New in New jacket IVirginia Hamilton draws upon her extensive knowledge of folktales in this ... "scare tale, " in which young James Lee discovers his Uncle Big Anthony has been cursed by a Wee Winnie Witch, who rides him like a broom across the night sky. Read more Show Less

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Overview


In the vein of her distinctive African American folktales from collections like HER STORIES comes a thrillingly creepy witch tale from award-winning author Virginia Hamilton, with art by Barry Moser.

Virginia Hamilton draws upon her extensive knowledge of folktales in this "scare tale," in which young James Lee discovers his Uncle Big Anthony has been cursed by a Wee Winnie Witch, who rides him like a broom across the night sky! When the witch captures James Lee and takes him along, Mamma Granny knows just what to do. She fills the Wee Winnie Witch's skin, which the Wee Winnie removes before her ride, with hot pepper. When it's back in place, Wee Winnie's burnt to a crisp! Full of Virginia Hamilton's poetic vernacular and authentic details, this is a perfect thrill for any spooky night.

James Lee and Uncle Big Anthony become victims of Wee Winnie Witch, who takes them on a ride up into the sky, but Mama Granny saves them.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Late author Hamilton, who collaborated with Moser on A Ring of Tricksters, concocted this nightmarish tale from elements of folklore. In the bizarre events, pictured in shadowy wood engravings, rural child James Lee sees a Wee Winnie (the name his mother used "to make a witch sound small") stalking his Uncle Big Anthony. Hair-raising illustrations show a cat transforming into a hag, peeling off her "skinny" (skin) and riding through the air on the uncle's back. Meanwhile, a "far-seer" woman applies "spice-hot pepper witch-be-gone potion" to the skinny, which destroys its owner when she attempts to reinhabit her epidermis. The disjointed storytelling contributes to the suspense; the book's malevolent sexual overtones and startling illustrations will haunt readers after the last page is turned. Ages 8-up. (Aug.) Halloween Fiction Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
James Lee knew enough to stay away from owls and gnats and cats, especially cats. Cats knew the most about witches. When a black cat fell out of a sassafras tree and landed on Uncle Big Anthony, James Lee was both frightened and fascinated. Sure enough a Wee Winnie showed up at Uncle Big Anthony's house. She braided his hair for a bridle, took off her skin and hung it next to his overalls, and jumped on his back for a ride. As they flew through the air, Wee Winnie swooped down and grabbed James Lee right through his bedroom window. His amazing ride was silhouetted by the harvest moon. Some of the folks below had alerted Mama Granny, a far-seer who could read the future and the past. She hurried over to Uncle Big Anthony's house with her special hot spice potion and poured it into the witch's empty skin. When Wee Winnie put her skin back on she was in for a huge surprise! Uncle Big Anthony and James Lee were never bothered by witches again, but they still enjoyed retelling their story every Halloween. Moser's colored wood engravings set the mood for this scary tale and contribute to the eerie tone. A distinguished book for mature readers and listeners. 2004, Blue Sky Press/Scholastic, Ages 10 to 14.
—Phyllis Kennemer, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 2-5-Hamilton has transformed her knowledge of witch beliefs in black folklore into an original tale. Wee Winnie changes from a black cat into her witch shape and hounds Uncle Big Anthony so relentlessly that she reduces him from a big, strapping man into one who is "lean and bent-over tired," an "about-gone, Uncle Shrunken Anthony." And as if that weren't enough, while his horrified nephew James Lee looks on from his bedroom window next door, Wee Winnie Witch takes off her skin and hangs it on a hook. She then grabs hold of Uncle Big Anthony, puts a bridle in his mouth, and rides him through the air, pulling James Lee right out of the window and onto his uncle's back as she flies by. Only Mama Granny's quick thinking saves the day. Hamilton's language is redolent with expressions that suggest African storytelling. Moser's large, colored-wood engravings, bordered in black and white, are strong and textured with horizontal and vertical lines. Illustrations show the hag, her black pointed hat in sharp contrast to an enormous moon, with bulging eyes glowing out of a lumpy body shed of the skin she is holding in her clawlike hand. This tale is admirably suited to Halloween telling, or for any time that shivers are in order.-Marianne Saccardi, Norwalk Community College, CT Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Readers who don't rest easy after being spooked should be warned away from this posthumous chiller. Billed as an "Original African American Scare Tale," it folds tried-and-true folkloric elements into a fast-paced story featuring a man afflicted by a witch who can detach her head and skin, and a too-curious lad she snatches out the window one night for a wild ride through the air. James Lee finds out what causes his Uncle Big Anthony to become so sick and frightened when he witnesses Wee Winnie Witch strip off her skin and ride Big Anthony like a horse; unfortunately, when she sees James Lee watching, over she gallops to grab him, too. But while they soar over the town (and James Lee finds himself as exhilarated as he is scared), Uncle Big Anthony's canny mother-in-law Mama Granny is coating the inside of Wee Winnie's skin with hot pepper oil. In full-page wood engravings, Moser captures the tale's moonlit horror with gloriously icky views of the witch, both skinless, and as a cat with long-nailed human hands-but he also provides welcome comic relief at the end, with a scene of James Lee, many years later, relating the tale with obvious relish to a wide-eyed young listener. Your listeners will be wide-eyed, too. (Picture book. 7-9)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780590288804
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/23/2004
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 7 - 10 Years
  • Lexile: 700L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.30 (w) x 10.25 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Virginia Hamilton

Virginia Hamilton (1936-2002) changed children's literature for generations of readers, winning every major award in her field across the globe. Her awards and honors include the Newbery Medal, the National Book Award, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, the Hans Christian Andersen Medal, a MacArthur Fellowship, and four honorary doctorates. Virginia was married to Arnold Adoff, and they have two children and one grandchild.

Biography

A writer of prodigious gifts, Virginia Hamilton forged a new kind of juvenile fiction by twining African-American and Native American history and folklore with contemporary stories and plotlines.

With Hamilton's first novel, Zeely, the story of a young farm girl who fantasizes that a woman she knows is a Watusi queen, she set the bar high. The book won a American Library Association Notable Children's Book citation. Hamilton rose to her own challenge, and every new book she published enriched American literature to such a degree that in 1995 she was awarded the ALA's Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for lifetime achievement.

Born in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and raised in an extended family of farmers and storytellers (her own father was a musician), Hamilton's work was inspired by her childhood experiences, family mythology, and Ohio River Valley homeland. In an article about the importance of libraries in children's lives, she credits her mother and the "story lady" at her childhood public library with opening her mind to the world of books.

Although she spent time in New York City working as a bookkeeper after college, and traveled widely in Africa and Europe, Hamilton spent most of her life in Yellow Springs, anchored by the language, geography, and culture of southern Ohio. In The House of Dies Drear, she arranged her story around the secrets of the Underground Railroad. In M. C. Higgins, the Great, winner of both a John Newbery Medal and a National Book Award, she chronicled the struggles of a family whose land, and life spirit, is threatened by strip mining. Publishers Weekly called the novel "one of those rare books which draws the reader in with the first paragraph and keeps him or her turning the page until the end."

In her series of folk-tale collections, including The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales, In the Beginning: Creation Stories from Around the World, and Her Stories: African American Folktales, Fairy Tales, and True Tales, Hamilton salvaged and burnished folk tales from cultures across the world for her stories; stories that suffused her fiction with its extraordinary blend of worldly and otherworldly events, enchantment, and modern reality. Virginia Hamilton died on February 19, 2002.

Good To Know

Hamilton's first research trip to a library was to find out more about her family's exotic chickens, which her mother called "rainbow layers," because of the many tints of the eggs they laid.

In 1995, Hamilton became the first children's writer to win a John D. and Catherine C. MacArthur "genius" grant.

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    1. Date of Birth:
      March 12, 1936
    2. Place of Birth:
      Yellow Springs, Ohio
    1. Date of Death:
      February 19, 2002
    2. Place of Death:
      Yellow Springs, Ohio
    1. Education:
      Attended Antioch College, Ohio State University, and the New School for Social Research
    2. Website:

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 4, 2007

    Real witchcraft

    This book is very different from all other books I've read about witches and scary monsters. It tells of a very formitable witch, but is conquered by a grandma who knows of wisdom. Read it!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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