It's Halloween 1687, and Jonathan and Hannah Wadsworth carve a devil's head jack-o-lantern to scare old Goody Gifford, whom...

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THE SECRET OF THE SACHEM'S TREE

It's Halloween 1687, and Jonathan and Hannah Wadsworth carve a devil's head jack-o-lantern to scare old Goody Gifford, whom they believe to be a witch. Goody Gifford lost her husband in King Philip's War and went out of her head when she saw King Philip's displayed atop the stockade, and the people of Hartford whispered that ever since she ""blinded the calves,/ and soured the cream,/ and danced with the devil on Halloween!"" But father Wadsworth makes the children remove the pumpkin from its hiding place in the Sachem's Tree, cautioning them that ""plain Connecticut Puritan folk"" should have nothing to do with talk of witches and ghosts and warning them to "". . . get rid of that pumpkin,/ And leave Goody Gifford be./ And tomorrow night, on Halloween,/ Stay away from the Sachem's tree."" Father has more important plans for the hiding place in the Sachem's tree (also known, as the background notes inform us, as the Charter Oak). For when Sir Edmund Andros arrives at the meetinghouse to revoke Hartford's charter (""Odds fish! Me charter!"") the candles are mysteriously doused and the document disappears in a ""rush of vapor!"" and a ""Whoosh of wind!"" It's all intoned in a ringing free verse that slips into rhyme for the creepiest moments, and Margot Tomes' colonial tableaux (so successful in Aaron and the Green Mountain Boys, p. 579, J-187) are augmented by a red-nosed Sir Edmund Andros, a toothy, leering Goody Gifford (as she dances in the children's imagination) and a stark, staring, King Philip's head. Scarifying.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1972

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1972