Sunday, May 3, 2009

Blast from the Past: McBroom's Ghost

First, I have to do the yell:

Willjillhesterchesterpeterpollytimtommarylarry andlittleclarinda!

That's how farmer Josh McBroom shouts his eleven children into the house as they're playing on his amazingly rich one-acre farm, where the soil is so rich they can grow two crops of tomatoes and a crop of carrots on the first day of planting.

And now it's my goal as I pass these wonderful books (this is the first of a series by Sid Fleischman) on to my children that I perfect McBroom's yell so I can shout it at them when it's time to come in for the day.

When I spotted this book along with McBroom Tells a Big Lie at the DI this weekend, I had to buy them. I used to own copies of the books myself, and remember, as a youngster, being a little spooked by the idea of reading a story about a ghost. Then, of course, I remember reading the story and laughing out loud at the outrageous tale-spinner that is Josh McBroom.

Then there are Robert Frankenberg's illustration, in which he leaves a few of his characters a bit buck-toothed and, frankly, skeleton-like with all the teeth you see.

And there's Heck Jones, the neighbor, covetous of the McBrooms' wonderful farm, who stands on the hill eating shoofly pie (made of molasses and brown sugar, sure to attract the flying pests). I remember thinking the pie was called "shoo-flee" pie, and wondering why the author had picked such an odd name. Well, I'm not the brightest penny in the patch, you see.

Somehow, it was Josh McBroom in this drawing that always worried me. He looked to my young eyes as if he were ready to tumble down the hill under the brunt of Heck Jones' shoofly pie breath.

My kids, as they will, have mixed feelings on Josh McBroom. Lexie, our daughter, was scared off by the ghost thing. Isaac, our youngest, who likes things loud, really likes the book, especially when I belt out Josh McBroom's kid-calling holler. Liam is pretty indifferent to the book. He has to pretty much discover a book on his own for it to hold his interest. Fortunately, he does a lot of finding, since we have the nasty habit of leaving a lot of books lying around the house. Don't know how we'd handle that if we had a Kindle or all electronic books. You don't exactly leave a bit of hardware like that lying around the house, and if you do, I'm not sure what the appeal would be for kids. Ours oure very visual, and unless the Kindle or its ilk can flash a nice illustrated cover once and a while, I'm not certain the screen would hold any interest.

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