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Precious and the Boo Hag (Anne Schwartz Books) Hardcover – January 1, 2005
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A young African-American girl named Precious has a stomachache, so she has to stay at home alone while the whole family leaves to plant corn. Mama tells her, "Now remember, don't let nothing and nobody in this house--not even me, 'cause I got a key." Precious's older brother warns her with a wink that, you never know, Pruella the Boo Hag could even try to get in: "She's tricky and she's scary, and she tries to make you disobey yo' mama." Sure enough, the shapeshifting Pruella shows up, first as a big, mean force with lightning hair and burning-cinder eyes; then as a friendly-looking, but more-than-slightly off visitor asking for a drink of dirty dishwater; then as a strange, raspy-voiced facsimile of her friend Addie Louise; and finally, as a copper penny. Clever Precious never falls for the Boo Hag's half-baked disguises (the Boo Hag "aine too smart") and her family is proud to find her at home safe and sound. That night, as Precious hums her victory song in bed, the reader is asked to look just outside her window... have we really seen the end of Boo Hag? Kyrsten Brooker's wonderfully expressive, mixed-media collage illustrations shine with as much humor, motion, and texture as the story. Young readers will revel in this original, vivacious, suspenseful-but-not-too-scary, read-aloud tale about a child's conquest of a genuinely spooky foe. (Ages 6 to 8) --Karin Snelson
From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Kindergarten-Grade 3–When Precious's bellyache keeps her from helping in the fields, she is left at home alone, with Mama's strict instructions to let no one inside the house for any reason, no matter what. This admonition is reinforced by Brother's warning that if she is not careful, Pruella the Boo Hag might sneak in. Frightening Boo Hags tell lies and are rude, and try to get children to disobey their mamas. Worst of all, they change shapes, so they are hard to recognize. Temptation comes in many forms and Precious is surely baited. But she is a plucky girl who confronts her fears and, in the end, clings to what she knows is right. The spirited language and vivid images will draw out the performer in every reader. The authors have produced an enchanting tale that is a pinch scary but a peck of fun. Brooker's oil-and-collage illustrations enhance the excitement while providing a glimpse of a modest home with peeling paint, braided rugs, and homemade jam. These images evoke real warmth and comfort, fortifying Precious–and readers–to meet her challenges. Find a comfy chair, gather an audience, and enjoy this wonderful book.–Mary Hazelton, Elementary Schools in Warren & Waldoboro, ME
Top customer reviews
I fell in love with this book the first time I read it. As a Media Specialist, I have used it for many story times and the children can never get enough. This book begs to be read aloud. It has predictability, repetition, and a child hero that outwits the villain. Children of all ages will love this story.
Read this book if:
* You love "scary" books
* You love books about African American heritage
* You love trickster stories
* You love read-aloud books
And while the Editorial Reviewers have done a fine job summarizing the plot, they overlook the fact that you can use this story to talk about conscience and impulse control. Perhaps not in exactly those terms, but in Mom and kid terms. We've talked about children behaving badly on the playground, concluding that they must have been `listening to that ole Boo Hag." And how they should have listened to their 'conscience' which knows better than to act up and misbehave.
Five Stars. Fun story. Good Read-aloud. See the Editorial Reviewers for a good description of the story. Good opportunity here to speak to children about right and wrong.
One day Precious suffers from a horrible stomachache all night without cease. Her mother allows her stay home for the day but warns her not to open the front door for anyone. In fact, Precious's brother agrees with this advice and tells his little sister that she should watch out for the Boo Hag. "She's tricky and she's scary, and she tries to make you disobey yo' mama". Sure enough, once the family is gone Precious sees the terrifying sight of a nasty creature riding on the back of an approaching storm. It's Pruella the Boo Hag and she wants into Precious's house. When the intimidation technique doesn't work, Precious soon finds a strange woman on her porch asking for a drink. Pure water, however, reveals the woman to be nothing more than a disguised Pruella. Soon the boo hag is back, this time as Precious's friend Addie Louise and then finally as a shiny penny. By the time her family is back, Precious has outsmarted Pruella and can go to bed. "As you listen to her gentle breathing, look closely in the branches outside Precious's window. You may just see a strange and scary creature ... waiting to get in!". The end?
McKissack has a gift with language that never grows dreary. I'm always on the lookout for picture books to read aloud to groups, and it seems to me that "Precious" has a lot of good things going for it. For one thing, Precious has a victory song she likes to sing after each encounter with her nemesis that contains a catchy little rhythm. It goes, "Pruella is a Boo Hag - she's right outside my window. She's tricky and she's scary, but I won't let her in!". If you get can the kids in your audience to join in on the "I WON'T LET HER IN!" with enthusiasm, the book's going to be one of their favorites right there and then. It helps that it's funny to boot. The Boo Hag is an idiot and tends to get overly excited in somewhat grotesque ways when it looks like Precious might be about to fall for her tricks. At the same time, the book ends on that slightly creepy note. Need a picture book for a Halloween storytime? This one could serve that purpose as well.
I'll be blunt about illustrator Kyrsten Brooker. I'd never heard of her before. This isn't to say that "Precious" was her first book. She'd had plenty of books, some with big name authors like Kathleen Krull. Until "Precious" came along, however, she'd never done anything quite as high-profile as this. I was intrigued with Brooker's style too. Using a combination of classic oil paints and wild out-and-out collage, the book looked like nothing so much as a play on Neil Gaiman's, "The Wolves In the Walls". Maybe this had to do with the fact that both books spend an inordinate amount of time looking at small photographed pictures of jam jars, but the feel I got from this book was not dissimilar artistically from the feel I got from Gaiman's. In this case, however, Brooker spends a great deal of time on the expressions and personalities of her characters. Precious herself is sometimes cocky, sometimes coy, sometimes afraid, but always on top of the situation. Brooker also does especially well with the boo hag's various disguises. Each disguise has a varying degree of success. I, personally, was most fond of her first look. Wearing a straw hat and fanning herself with a lacy rose-covered fan, the transformation from kindly old woman to boo hag (after getting a drink of pure water by accident) causes a delightful transformation. I'm not entirely certain how Brooker got the boo hag's left eye to spin in a counter-clockwise circle like that, but boy-oh-boy is it effective. There are tiny little details hidden throughout the pictures that are fun to find as well. For example, there's a box of Special K sitting on Precious's kitchen counter with a peculiar memorandum notice pasted to its side. And that final shot of the boo hag as scary tree outside Precious's window? A great spooky note on which to end the story.
Of course the book this really reminded me of in a lot of ways was my beloved, "Liza Lou and the Yeller Belly Swamp", by Mercer Mayer. I adored that book when I was a child and continue to adore it to this day. Precious is definitely a heroine walking in Liza Lou's footsteps and I don't care who hears it. The whole don't-let-strangers-into-the-house idea (still timely, yes?) is also put to great dramatic use in Ed Young's wonderful "Lon Po Po". Either one of these books would act as a swell complement to McKissack's own fabulous tale. Heck, you could do an entire children-outsmarting-monster storytime with this book as your headliner. A great tale, wonderful illustrations, and a class act through and through.