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Children's Literature Reviews
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The dark-thirty : Southern tales of the supernatural
Patricia C. McKissack ; illustrated by Brian Pinkney.
Contributor biographical information
Publisher description
New York : Knopf, c1992.
iv, 122 p. : ill. ; 29 cm.


A collection of ghost stories with African American themes, designed to be told during the Dark Thirty--the half hour before sunset--when ghosts seem all too believable.

Best Books:

Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, 2001 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
Children's Catalog, Nineteenth Edition, 2006 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
Kaleidoscope, A Multicultural Booklist for Grades K-8, 1994 ; National Council of Teachers of English; United States
Middle And Junior High School Library Catalog, Eighth Edition, 2000 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
Notable Children's Books, 1993 ; Association for Library Service to Children; United States
Notable Children's Trade Books in the Field of the Social Studies, 1992 ; National Council for the Social Studies NCSS; United States
Recommended Literature: Kindergarten through Grade Twelve, 2002 ; California Department of Education; California
Teachers' Choices, 1993 ; International Reading Association; United States

Awards, Honors, Prizes:

Coretta Scott King Book Award, 1993 Winner Author United States
John Newbery Medal, 1993 Honor Book United States

State and Provincial Reading Lists:

Indian Paintbrush Book Award, 1995 ; Nominee; Wyoming
Kentucky Bluegrass Award, 1994 ; Nominee; Kentucky
Prairie Pasque Award, 1995 ; Nominee; South Dakota
Rebecca Caudill Young Readers' Book Award, 1996 ; Nominee; Illinois
William Allen White Children's Book Award, 1994-1995 ; Master List; Kansas

Curriculum Tools:

Link to Coretta Scott King curricular resources at

Reading Measurement Programs:

Accelerated Reader
Interest Level Middle Grade
Book Level 4.6
Accelerated Reader Points 4
Accelerated Vocabulary

Lexile, MetaMetrics, Inc.
Lexile Measure 730

Reading Counts-Scholastic
Interest Level 6-8
Reading Level 7
Title Point Value 6
Lexile Measure 730


Janice Del Negro (Booklist, Dec. 15, 1992 (Vol. 89, No. 8))
McKissack identifies these 10 tales as "original stories rooted in African American history and the oral storytelling tradition." She prefaces each with a short introduction explaining the historical incident or custom from which it grew--for example, slavery, belief in a psychic ability known as "the sight," or the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott that began in 1955. The most successful of the stories have the structure and style of traditional folktales as well as the shiver-up-the-back feeling of "real" ghost stories. In "Justice," an innocent black man lynched by the Klan comes back to haunt the man who engineered his death; the sad tale of "The Woman in the Snow" shows prejudice and cruelty overcome; and in the semi-autobiographical story "The Chicken Coop Monster," a young girl becomes secure in the knowledge that love casts out fear. An accessible collection on a popular topic, easy to booktalk to a wide range of readers. Category: Middle Readers. 1992, Knopf/Borzoi, $15 and $15.99. Gr. 4-8.

Midwest Book Review (Children's Bookwatch, November 2006)
Excellent for either middle school readers or parental read-alouds with the family is a chilling gathering of supernatural folk stories in THE DARK-THIRTY: SOUTHERN TALES OF THE SUPERNATURAL. Black and white drawings by Brian Pinkney compliments a collection which offers tales inspired by African American history from slavery to 20th century time frames. The Folklore/Mythology Shelf ...., Alfred A. Knopf, $18.95. grades 3+

Susie Wilde (Children's Literature)
This 1992 Newbery Award runner-up has a somber quality. It also won the 1993 Coretta Scott King Author Award. Most of the stories have undercurrents of racial prejudice, which give a super-special spine-tingle. Stories include backdrops such as the Montgomery bus boycott and the KKK of the thirties. McKissack skillfully blends history, story and truth to profoundly affect readers eight and up. 1992, Knopf, $16.00 and $16.99. Ages 8 to 12.

Debra Briatico (Children's Literature)
This collection contains ten original ghost stories with African American themes ranging from the time of Slavery to the Civil Rights Era. Keeping with the oral storytelling tradition, these tales should be told at a special time called the dark-thirty--the half hour before sunset--when ghosts seem all too believable and shadows play tricks on the mind. Suspenseful, heart-stopping stories such as "Boo Mama," "The Chicken-Coop Monster," and "The Woman in the Snow" are accompanied by eerie black and white scratch-board illustrations. 1992, Alfred A. Knopf, $16.00 and $17.99. Ages 8 up.

CCBC (Cooperative Children's Book Center Choices, 1992)
Ten original stories based in African-American history combine supernatural elements with an oral style that reads like traditional storytelling. Whether it's the mysterious disappearance of a slave being sold away from his family, or the ghostly revenge of a man lynched by the Ku Klux Klan, all of these well-written stories are satisfyingly eerie, exactly right to be told and re-told during the "dark-thirty" -- the half hour just before nightfall. CCBC categories: Folklore, Mythology And Traditional Literature. 1992, Alfred A. Knopf, 122 pages, $15.00. Ages 7-12.

Kirkus (Kirkus Reviews, 1992)
McKissack invites readers to gather in the "dark-thirty"--the eerie haft hour when dusk darkens to night--for ten shivery tales inspired by African-American folklore and history. The historical links are especially potent: in the "The Legend of Pin Oak," a free mulatto and his family escape re-enslavement by leaping from a cliff; in "We Organized"--written in free verse and based on an actual narrative--a cruel owner is forced by magic to free his slaves. An African-American lynched by the KKK, and another left by a white bus-driver to freeze to death, return to haunt their tormentors; when a dying Pullman porter hears "The 11:59," he knows it's time to go. Each tale is told in a simple, lucid style, embellished by a few deftly inserted macabre details and by one of Pinkney's dramatic, swirling scratchboard illustrations. A fine collection that teaches as it entertains. 1992, Knopf, $15.00; PLB $15.99. © 1992 Kirkus Reviews/VNU eMedia, Inc. All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly)
When I was growing up in the South, writes McKissack, we called the half hour just before nightfall the dark-thirty. Her nine stories and one poem, however, are far too good to be reserved for that special time when it is neither day nor night and when shapes and shadows play tricks on the mind. These short works-haunting in both senses of the word-explore aspects of the African American experience in the South, from slavery to the Underground Railroad and emancipation, from the era of Pullman cars to the desegregation of buses, from the terror of the Ku Klux Klan to '60s activism. Here, African Americans' historical lack of political power finds its counterbalance in a display of supernatural power: ghosts exact vengeance for lynchings; slaves use ancient magic to enforce their master's promise of emancipation. As carefully executed as McKissack's writings, Pinkney's black-and-white scratchboard illustrations enhance the book's atmosphere, at once clearly regional in setting and otherworldly in tone. Ages 8-12. (Oct.)

Betsy Hearne (The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, December 1992 (Vol. 46, No. 4))
The author's brief introduction bills this as "a collection of original stories rooted in African American history and the oral storytelling tradition"; what she doesn't mention is that, after the first two slave tales, the remaining eight have a contemporary, urban-legend tone that makes them all the spookier for being more immediate. In terms of development, this is more fiction than folklore, and kids looking for short stories that are fast-moving and easy to read will find the ghosts a bonus. "The Woman in the Snow" about a haunted bus route, "The Conjure Brother" about a girl's misguided wish, "Boo Mama" about a mother and child taken by Sasquatch, or "The Gingi" about an evil Yoruban spirit's possession of a house could all happen any minute (especially after dark). Every once in a while, McKissack's style starts skimming the surface of both action and characters, but she knows how to tell a good story and isn't afraid to dramatize scary details, on the one hand, or throw in some history, on the other. Every story gets a context-setting introduction, and Brian Pinkney's black-and-white scratchboard illustrations serve to heighten the suspense without overdramatizing it. A chilling chaser for Lyons' Rawhead, Bloody Bones (BCCB 2/92). R--Recommended. (c) Copyright 1992, The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. 1992, Knopf, 122p, $15.99 and $15.00. Grades 5-9.


Ghost stories, American.
Horror tales, American.
African Americans Juvenile fiction.
Children's stories, American.
Ghosts Fiction.
Horror stories.
African Americans Fiction.
Short stories.
LanguageCall NumberLCCNDewey DecimalISBN/ISSN
English (eng) PZ7.M478693 Dar 1992
92003021 [Fic]
0679818634 (trade) : $15.00 ($19.00Can.)
0679918639 (lib. bdg)
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