Date reviewed: 2/04/03
Summary: Molly’s father has told her a legend of a tribesman who was too lazy to hunt for himself and ate his own flesh instead. Later, Molly’s parents disappear and she spends several days waiting before she tells anyone. A mysterious uncle shows up to take custody of her. He keeps her locked in her room and she is afraid that he is trying to poison her. She confides in her teacher who really goes to bat for her with the school’s guidance counselor (who believes that Molly is simply trying to get attention). Molly’s Native American blood kicks in and she has visions of a rabbit who is trying to help her escape her “uncle.” She must figure out what these dreams mean to stay alive.
Personal Reaction: The Skeleton Man character reminds me of Count Olaf in the Series of Unfortunate Events books by Lemony Snicket. You never know if the uncle is a flesh-and-blood being or perhaps a demon spirit. Smart heroine takes control of her situation. The Native American imagery is used to perfection! Suspenseful ‘till the end, I could not put this book down and finished it in just under an hour.
Any Cautions: Maybe too scary for 3rd or 4th graders?
Suitable for Read Aloud? Yes!
Possible classroom uses: You can tie this in with units on Native Americans, ghost stories, mysteries, relationships with school personnel, Native American myths, legends or imagery; kidnapping (“stranger danger”) strategies
Connections to other books? Sequel: The Return of Skeleton Man, or anything Joseph Bruchac for those kids who are into the Native American aspect of spirituality, especially Flying with the Eagle, Racing the Great Bear. Even Ben Mikaelson’s Touching Spirit Bear will reel in those hard-to-reach boys in the middle grades. Put all your NA myths, crafts, biographies etc. out there. For the kidnapping theme, try Taken by Bloor or The Bad Beginning by Snicket.
Realia: backpack, stuffed rabbit, skeleton, mirror, camera video stream or dark monitor, fake bottle of poison
Food items connected to story: pizza