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OLD DRY FRYE by Paul Brett Johnson


A Deliciously Funny Tall Tale

adapted by Paul Brett Johnson, illustrated by Paul Brett Johnson

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-590-37658-6
Publisher: Scholastic

An Appalachian folktale is the basis of Johnson’s story of a fried-chicken-loving preacher whose untimely demise sets into motion an tumultuous chain of events as members of his flock frantically try to absolve themselves of the non-existent crime of murder. Old Dry Frye is so well known for his capacious appetite for fried chicken that when he chokes on a bone, his hosts, a distraught farmer and his wife, are convinced that everyone will suspect them of murder. To escape condemnation, they quickly hide the body in the widow’s chicken coop; she, fearing the preacher is a poacher, bops him on the head with her frying pan. Believing she accidentally killed Frye, she quickly gets “shed of” him. And so begins the wild journey for the hapless corpse as one villager after another stumbles upon him and assumes guilt for the cause of death. Johnson’s over-the-top, humorous portrayal of the citizens’ frenzied actions and reactions rescue the tale from excessive morbidity. Although the text does not refer to it, the illustrations show Frye coughing up his chicken bone during the chaotic and hilarious denouement. Told in the melodious twang of mountain vernacular, Johnson’s story rumbles along to its own beat, an outrageously ghoulish tale to make story-hour listeners shiver. (Picture book/folklore. 5-8)