Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Review: The Dark Thirty

This review was written by Alice Herold

What book can entertain a couple of 60+ year olds on a nine hour car trip?

Recently, I read Patricia McKissack's The Dark Thirty aloud to my husband who was driving from southern California to northern California. McKissack writes award winning tales rooted in African-American history. For example, one is about the Ku Klux Klan in the 1930's, another is about the first black union (Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in 1926), and a third is about the boycott of the buses in 1955-56. The Dark Thirty is a collection of ghost stories "that should be told at that special time when it is neither day nor night and when shapes and shadows play tricks on the mind." There are eleven stories in the book meant to be read or told aloud.

My personal favorite is "Boo Mama." A two-year old boy disappers into the woods in eastern Tennessee. After one year, two months, three days, and four hours, the baby is found on the steps of the church, naked and smelling like skunks. Who took the child? Why? Who potty trained him? What language is he speaking? Brian Pickney brilliantly illustrated the child, Nealy, in black and white, looking into the woods with his arms outstretched. Why was he looking longingly into the woods? Why was he crying? Read this remarkable book to discover answers to these questions and to be entertained during the thirty minutes before dark--the dark-thirty.
Editorial note: The Dark Thirty was originally published in 2001 and is a Newbery Honor Book. It was reprinted in 2006.

Review copy provided by the publisher.