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
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*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 RochmanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved