Skeleton Man
Skeleton Man
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Annotation: After her parents disappear and she is turned over to the care of a strange "great-uncle," Molly must rely on her dreams about an old Mohawk story for her safety and maybe even for her life.
Genre: [Suspense fiction]
Catalog Number: #273449
Format: Perma-Bound Edition
Publisher: HarperCollins
Copyright Date: 2001
Edition Date: 2003
Illustrator: Comport, Sally Wern,
Pages: 114 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 0-06-440888-4 Perma-Bound: 0-605-37322-1
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-06-440888-2 Perma-Bound: 978-0-605-37322-8
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 00054345
Dimensions: 20 cm.
Language: English
Horn Book
When her parents disappear, Molly is handed over to a sinister, skeletal man claiming to be her great-uncle. Drawing on her Mohawk heritage, the sixth grader unravels much of the mystery of her parents' whereabouts and the stranger's identity, although his evil motivations are never fully explained--which makes the story even spookier. The plot sometimes strains credulity, but the narrative is fast paced and suspenseful.
Kirkus Reviews
Bruchac ( The Journal of Jesse Smoke , p. 655, etc.) sets this short nail-biter, based on a Mohawk legend—about a man with an appetite so insatiable that he eats himself down to bones, then goes after his relatives—in modern New York state. Despite her protests, when Molly's parents suddenly disappear, she's handed over to a tall, thin stranger claiming to be her great-uncle. Molly can't convince anyone, except a sympathetic but powerless teacher, that she's in danger. But as she is locked into her new room each night, seldom catches even a glimpse of her captor's face, and discovers that he has a closed-circuit TV camera trained on her door, she recalls a scary tale her Mohawk father tells. She also begins having strange dreams: of being pursued, and of a rabbit who offers warnings and guidance. Those dreams turn real when she escapes, finds her parents imprisoned in an adjoining building, then leads her captor on a desperate run through dark woods to a (perhaps final) confrontation on a high, rickety bridge. Bruchac adds believable details, vigorously cranks up the suspense, and pits a deliciously ghastly creature who likes to play with his food against a resourceful young heroine who draws both on courage and cultural tradition to come out on top. A natural for under-the-blanket reading. (Fiction. 10-12)
Publishers Weekly

Drawing on traditions of Native American stories, Bruchac writes of a girl whose parents mysteriously disappear and a "great-uncle" who shows up to claim her, with "spine-tingling effects," wrote PW. "The mix of traditional and contemporary cultural references adds to the haunting appeal, and the quick pace and suspense will likely hold the interest of young readers." Ages 10-up. (Aug.)

School Library Journal
Gr 4-7-Bruchac weaves an incredibly scary story of a girl whose warm, contented family is suddenly torn apart. Molly's knowledge of and immersion in her Mohawk heritage is something she takes for granted, as are the wisdom and strength that come from understanding the traditional tales and listening to one's dreams. She sets the stage as she tells one of her father's favorite stories about a man who is hungry and eats himself and then everyone around except for one clever young girl. Molly then discloses that her own parents have suddenly disappeared. An eerie, stick-thin old man arrives claiming to be her only kin using the pictures from her father's wallet. Adults on the scene vary from being clueless to well intentioned but ineffectual. Brought to skeleton man's house and locked in a room every evening, Molly keeps trying to find a way out, eventually finding that heeding her dreams, combined with some great detective work, does the trick. Better than many mystery writers, who make the clues obvious, Bruchac makes every word add to the tension right up to the final few pages. Details of video cameras and computers help to sustain belief in a highly improbable plot. The suspense draws readers in and keeps them engaged. In the classic horror tradition, Bruchac offers a timely tale that will make hearts beat and brows sweat, and it has the bonus of a resourceful heroine to put the world right again.-Carol A. Edwards, Sonoma County Library, Santa Rosa, CA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Starred Review ALA Booklist
*Starred Review* What will Molly do now that her parents have vanished? The answer may rest with the elderly stranger who claims to be her great-uncle. Credulous local authorities hope he is, and they're glad to send the sixth-grader to live with him. But is he who he claims to be? And why does he appear in Molly's increasingly vivid dreams as the skeleton monster she heard about in her Mohawk father's stories? Will Molly ever see her parents again? Will her dreams and reality merge with disastrous results? Although it's steeped in Mohawk lore and tradition, Bruchac's story is contemporary both in its setting and its celebration of the enduring strength and courage of Native American women. The plot occasionally seems as skeletal as the monster that stalks the pages, but Molly's plight will still engage readers' sympathy as she struggles to prove herself worthy of her namesake, Molly Brant, a dauntless eighteenth-century Mohawk warrior.
Word Count: 20,776
Reading Level: 4.8
Interest Level: 4-7
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 4.8 / points: 3.0 / quiz: 52617 / grade: Middle Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:5.4 / points:7.0 / quiz:Q26339
Lexile: 730L
Guided Reading Level: V
Fountas & Pinnell: V

Footsteps on the Stair

I'm not sure how to begin this story. For one thing, it's still going on. For another, you should never tell a story unless you're sure how it's going to end. At least that's what my sixth-grade teacher, Ms. Shabbas, says. And I'm not sure at all. I'm not sure that I even know the beginning. I'm not sure if I'm a minor character or the heroine. Heck, I'm not even sure I'll be around to tell the end of it. But I don't think anyone else is going to tell this story.

Wait! What was that noise?

I listen for the footsteps on the stairs, footsteps much heavier than those an elderly man should make. But it's quiet, just the usual spooky nighttime creaking of this old house. I don't hear anyone coming now. If I don't survive, maybe they'll all realize I should have been taken seriously and then warn the world!

Warn the world. That's pretty melodramatic, isn't it? But that is one of the things I do well, melodrama. At least that is what Ms. Shabbas says. Her name is Maureen Shabbas. But Ms. Showbiz is what we all call her, because her main motive for living seems to be torturing our class with old Broadway show tunes. She starts every day by singing a few bars of one and then making it the theme for the day. It is so disgustingly awful that we all sort of like it. Imagine someone who loves to imitate Yul Brynner in The King and I, a woman with an Afro, no less, getting up and singing "Shall We Dance?" in front of a classroom of appalled adolescents. Ms. Showbiz. And she has the nerve to call me melodramatic!

But I guess I am. Maybe this whole thing is a product of my overactive imagination. If that turns out to be so, all I can say is who wouldn't have an overactive imagination if they'd heard the kind of stories I used to hear from Mom and Dad?

Dad had the best stories. They were ones his aunties told him when he was growing up on the Mohawk Reserve of Akwesasne on the Canadian side. One of my favorites was the one about the skeleton monster. He was just a human being at first, a lazy, greedy uncle who hung around the longhouse and let everyone else hunt for him. One day, alone in the lodge, waiting for the others to come home with food, Lazy Uncle burned his finger really badly in the fire and stuck it into his mouth to cool it. "Oooh," he said as he sucked the cooked flesh, "this tastes good!" (Isn't that gross? I love it. At least, I used to love it.)It tasted so good, in fact, that he ate all the flesh off his finger. "Ah," he said, "this is an easy way to get food, but I am still hungry."

So he cooked another finger, and another, until he had eaten all his fingers. "Oooh," he said, "that was good, but I am still hungry." So he cooked his toes and ate them. He cooked his feet and ate them. He cooked his legs and ate them. He cooked his right arm and then his left. He kept on until he had cooked his whole body and eaten it, and all that was left was a skeleton. When he moved, his bones rubbed together: tschick-a-tschick-tschick-a-tschick.

"Ah," he said in a voice that was now just a dry whisper. "That was good, but I am still hungry. I hope that my relatives come home soon."

And when his relatives came home, one by one, they found that the lodge was dark except for the glow of the cooking fire. They could see a shadowy shape beckoning to them from the other side of the fire. They could hear a sound like this: tschick-a-tschick-tschick-a-tschick.

"Come in, my relatives," Skeleton Man whispered. "I have been waiting for you."One by one all of his relatives came into the lodge. Skeleton Man caught them and ate them, all but one. She was his niece, and she had been playing in her favorite spot down by the river that flowed through the gorge. She was late coming home because she had seen a rabbit that had fallen into the river. She had rescued it from drowning and warmed it in her arms until it was able to run away.

When the little girl came to the lodge, she was surprised at how quiet it was. She should have heard people talking and laughing, but she didn't hear anything. Something was wrong. Slowly, carefully, she approached the door of the lodge. A strange sound came from the shadows within: tschick-a-tschick-tschick-a-tschick. Then a dry voice called out to her.

"My niece," Skeleton Man whispered. "Come into the lodge. I have been waiting for you."

That voice made her skin crawl. "Where are my parents?" she asked."They are here. They are here inside," Skeleton Man whispered. "Come in and be with them."

"No," the girl said, "I will not come inside."

"Ah," Skeleton Man replied in his dry, thin voice, "that is all right. I will come out for you."

Then Lazy Uncle, the Skeleton Man, walked out of the lodge. His dry bones rubbed together as he walked toward the little girl: tschick-a-tschick-tschick-a-tschick.

The girl began to run, not sure where to go. Skeleton Man would have caught her and eaten her if it hadn't been for that rabbit she'd rescued from the river. It appeared on the path before her.

"I will help you because you saved me," said the rabbit. "Follow me."

Then the rabbit helped the little girl outwit Skeleton Man. It even showed her how to bring everyone Skeleton Man had eaten back to life.

My mom and dad told me stories like that all the time. Before they vanished. Disappeared. Gone, just like that.

I was on TV when they disappeared. You probably saw me on Unsolved Mysteries. The news reporter said into her microphone, "Child left alone in house for over three days, terrified, existing on cornflakes and canned food." Actually I went to school on Tuesday and called out for pizza once. Mom had left money on her dresser when they went out that Saturday evening and never returned.


Excerpted from Skeleton Man by Joseph Bruchac Copyright © 2003 by Joseph Bruchac
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

A chilling, own-voices middle-grade novel featuring a brave young girl, missing parents, and a terrifying stranger, based on a Native American legend.

Molly’s father, who grew up on the Mohawk Reserve of Akwesasne, always had the best scary stories. One of her favorites was the legend of Skeleton Man, a gruesome tale about a man with such insatiable hunger he ate his own flesh before devouring those around him.

But ever since her parents mysteriously vanished, those spooky tales have started to feel all too real.

R.L. Stine, New York Times bestselling author of the Goosebumps series, raved, "This book gave ME nightmares!”

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