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Wee Winnie Witch's Skinny Hardcover – August 1, 2004


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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 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 © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Gr. 3-6. Hamilton, who died in 2002, brought us many unforgettable stories from her research in African American folklore. This original scare tale, which may be her creepiest, is a wonderful horror story that draws on traditional beliefs about witches hanging up their skins and riding people using braided hair as a bridle. Moser's framed, colored wood engravings do a great job of bringing the wild, shivery adventure close to home, their black backgrounds and strong lines lit with garish Halloween images in shades of green and red. The focus is on young James Lee, who sees Uncle Big Anthony taken by the Witch. She comes creeping like a cat, takes off her skin, hangs it on the wall next to Uncle's overalls, and rides him, holding on to his braided hair. One night she takes James Lee along for the ride. Far-seeing Mama Granny comes to the rescue, using a potion to trap the demon. Moser's realistic portrait of Mama Granny, bent over a stick but still solid and strong under the moonlit sky, is as memorable as the garish image of the skinless witch. Even better, Hamilton makes clear that James Lee enjoys the ride as much as he relishes the witch's grisly end; so will the middle-grade readers--especially at Halloween. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 7 - 10 years
  • Grade Level: 2 - 5
  • Lexile Measure: 700L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Blue Sky Press; First Edition edition (August 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0590288806
  • ISBN-13: 978-0590288804
  • Product Dimensions: 10.2 x 8.1 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,884,461 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Virginia Esther Hamilton was born, as she said, "on the outer edge of the Great Depression," on March 12, 1934. The youngest of five children of Kenneth James and Etta Belle Perry Hamilton, Virginia grew up amid a large extended family in Yellow Springs, Ohio. The farmlands of southwestern Ohio had been home to her mother's family since the late 1850s, when Virginia's grandfather, Levi Perry, was brought into the state as an infant via the Underground Railroad.

Virginia graduated at the top of her high-school class and received a full scholarship to Antioch College in Yellow Springs. In 1956, she transferred to the Ohio State University in Columbus and majored in literature and creative writing. She moved to New York City in 1958, working as a museum receptionist, cost accountant, and nightclub singer, while she pursued her dream of being a published writer. She studied fiction writing at the New School for Social Research under Hiram Haydn, one of the founders of Atheneum Press.

It was also in New York that Virginia met poet Arnold Adoff. They were married in 1960. Arnold worked as a teacher, and Virginia was able to devote her full attention to writing, at least until daughter Leigh was born in 1963 and son Jaime in 1967. In 1969, Virginia and Arnold built their "dream home" in Yellow Springs, on the last remaining acres of the old Hamilton/Perry family farm, and settled into a life of serious literary work and achievement.

In her lifetime, Virginia wrote and published 41 books in multiple genres that spanned picture books and folktales, mysteries and science fiction, realistic novels and biography. Woven into her books is a deep concern with memory, tradition, and generational legacy, especially as they helped define the lives of African Americans. Virginia described her work as "Liberation Literature." She won every major award in youth literature.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on January 4, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Just how far do you chose to believe a child when they tell you they want to be scared? Do they really know what they're asking for or are they just going to huddle under their bedcovers late at night and have nightmares for weeks on end when you give in to their demands? The book, "Wee Winnie Witch's Skinny" raises such questions because it's honestly a rather horrific peace of work. A well-researched, folklore accurate, beautifully written horrific work, but a horrific one just the same. Penned by the genius that brought us "The House of the Dies Drear" and "Sweet Whispers Brother Rush", Virginia Hamilton wrote this tale just before her death. Now with accompanying engravings by Barry Moser it's an honestly original and disturbing piece of literature. If Halloween rolls around and you want to show the kids a tale that will honestly knock their socks off, you couldn't do any better than this dark evocative tale of skinless witches, bridled men, and truly evil felines.

There's something wrong with James Lee's Uncle Big Anthony. Once a large strapping fellow, Anthony's been wasting away lately. There are mysterious scratch marks on his shirts and a tear at the corner of his mouth, "where a cat-wich Winnie must've tried to bridle him". The neighbors are saying that a Wee Winnie (a witch) must be after Uncle Big Anthony and there's nothing that can be done. James Lee doesn't know about that, so he's determined to help any way they can. Still, it's only with the aid of Mama Granny's spice-hot pepper witch-be-gone potion that one Wee Winnie Witch meets an ugly but well-deserved demise.

After reading the book it's difficult to figure out how exactly this creation could have been published without the accompanying Barry Moser illustrations.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By E. Fox on October 28, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This odd little book is a wonderfully crafted story about Witch Wee Winnie, who sheds her skin to take a moonlight ride on the back of a Uncle Big Anthony, a big, burly black man who was transmogrified into a complacent horse. Though the story ends on a positive note, there are plenty of nail-biting parts that are macabre enough to impress even the most jaded young reader. The story is an action-packed and scary adventure that would make a great read-aloud in a classroom setting, as a study in African American folklore or story teller's perspective. Moser's woodcut illustrations are a perfect complement to the text; they manage to be high-contrast spooky and yet dark and shadowy, all at once.
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Format: Hardcover
My son (first grade, and almost 7 years old) brought this book from the school library today. I always read the books he brings before we read them together. While this book is classified as appropriate for ages 7 to 10, first and second graders will be quite scared. It is a great piece of literature from a brilliant story teller. But the illustrations and parts of the story definitely make it not appropriate for the little ones. At some point the story talks about how the witch takes off her skin and hangs it on the wall, with an illustration depicting this scene. Unless you allow your first grader to watch The Walking Dead, you shouldn't allow her/ him to read this book. It is a pretty creepy book.
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By Vibrant Thang on August 28, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One of my favorite books as a kids, very spooky and different, wish i could find the audio version
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