From School Library Journal
Gr 2-4–Legend has it that Mother Leeds gave birth to the Jersey Devil, her monstrous 13th child, on a Halloweeen night some 300 years ago. The Devil, complete with a forked tail, the hooves of a goat, horns growing out of its head, bat's wings, and glowing eyes, is said to haunt the Pine Barrens of southern New Jersey, frightening lone travelers and livestock, souring milk, and stealing pies. Noble does a capable job of capturing the atmosphere of the setting, with its black swamps and murky bogs. She conveys enough of the details of the Devil's alleged activities to make the tale deliciously spooky, omitting some of the more grisly possibilities. Kelley reinforces the spookiness with effective use of light and shadow, although his people too often verge on cartoon caricature, so that facial expressions that are supposed to reflect fear and terror seem laughable instead. There is little available for this age group on this folklore character, making this is a serviceable addition for those feeling the need to have him represented in their collections. There are no source notes.–Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
The source of countless stories, movies, and TV show episodes, the Jersey Devil is one of those creatures cryptozoologists can never quite pin down—though few of its origin stories are as delectable as this one, supposedly told in the Pine Barrens area for nearly 300 years. It’s 1735, almost Halloween, and rumored witch Mother Leeds is giving birth to her thirteenth child. “Oh let it be a devil!” she screams. Like that, a hideous creature with a forked tail is born and goes darting up the chimney. Soon it is being blamed for all sorts of local misfortune, and breathless sightings of a flying, horse-headed beast become rampant. “Devil hunters” arrive to make the bounty offered for the monster and are only dispatched by the Devil when the townsfolk agree to accept the abomination as their own. Much like the story of Sleepy Hollow, the folktale’s plotlessness contributes to its authenticity and spookiness, and Kelley’s scarily exaggerated, underlit, and perpetually frightened villagers make nicely fearful foes for our fire-breathing beast. Ideal for Halloween. Grades 2-4. --Daniel Kraus