Storyteller McKissack crafts a spine-tingling tale set during colonial times about a greedy man who just may get the scare of his life.
The author captivates from the start. John Leep “had a mean streak in him that ran the length of his long, thin body. Wasn’t poverty that made him hard. He had plenty of money. But John Leep had a stingy heart.” So he sets off on his horse to evict the widow Mayes. As they travel, the horse’s hooves make a steady “clip-clop.” Periodically, Leep pauses, believing he hears another horse and rider following him. Velasquez wisely keeps the focus on John Leep’s face. As John goes further away from town, the scenes begin to envelop him in shadow. His arrogant countenance slowly transforms, first showing annoyance, then worry and then fear. He plays a trick to cheat the widow, but something is listening. On his ride home, he goes faster and faster, and the sounds of the mysterious rider keep pace, frenzied, onomatopoeic hoofbeats punctuating the text: “Clippitycloppityclippitycloppity….” He makes it home, but he is never seen again. Some say “Ol’ Clip-Clop… / …SWALLOWED HIM WHOLE!!!!!!!” And on the last, page, the illustrator paints a most horrifying specter poised to do just that.
This splendid “jump story” is not for the faint of heart, but readers who relish edge-of-the-seat suspense done impeccably will be well-satisfied. (Picture book. 6-10)