Kirkus Reviews QR Code
THE SKULL TALKS BACK by Zora Neale Hurston


and Other Haunting Tales

by Zora Neale Hurston & adapted by Joyce Carol Thomas & illustrated by Leonard Jenkins

Age Range: 8 - 10

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2004
ISBN: 0-06-000631-5
Publisher: HarperCollins

A talking mule, a talking skull, a witch who slips her skin, and a man so powerful that he’s not admitted to heaven or hell star in this appealing but flawed companion to What’s The Hurry, Fox? and Other Animal Stories (p. 331), illustrated by Bryan Collier. Jenkins’s semi-abstract, black-and-white scenes of ghosts and bones add eerie atmosphere to the six folktales; Thomas has recast Hurston’s original, thick dialect into a modern idiom, while nicely preserving that country flavor: “No, Pa, that mule’s done gone to talking, I tell you. I ain’t going.” But some of the stories are only fragments, and the collection as a whole is jumbled; a boaster named High Walker dies in one tale, but isn’t introduced until a later one, and Thomas’s introduction has, oddly, been placed at the end. Hurston’s work merits a less clumsy introduction to young readers, and Mary Lyon’s Raw Head, Bloody Bones (1991) is only one of many similar folktale gatherings with a higher chill factor. (Folktales. 8-10)