A delightfully spooky picture-book rendering of the famed Jersey Devil legend.
From a state rife with disreputable characters, Noble here depicts perhaps its most otherworldly resident, the Jersey Devil, whose existence dates back to colonial folklore of 1735. On an archetypally dark and stormy night in the remote Pine Barrens, a coastal region distinguished by “black swamps and murky bogs” fed by brackish water, as Mother Leeds is in labor with her 13th child, she curses, “Oh let it be a devil!” With requisite lightning and thunderclap, she gets her wish: A monstrous creature—with a horse’s head, horns, bat wings, cloven hooves, forked tail and glowing eyes, and capable of breathing fire—is born, destined by its parenting and chimeric looks to become an outcast. Kelley’s arresting watercolors heighten the ghoulish drama, with vivid facial expressions and atmospheric tendrils of lightning and mist. From a callous mother who doesn’t want her child and a town that reviles difference to a scheming preacher, businessmen and bounty hunters looking to profit from a freak of nature, Noble’s mythological subject must struggle to overcome humanity at its worst, blending psychology with the stuff of ghastly legend. Overcome it he does, eventually winning the hearts of the people of the Pine Barrens, who adopt him for their own.
Suspenseful, with captivating illustrations. (Picture book/folktale. 6-10)