McKissack Book: The Dark-Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural

March 3, 2009

Here’s another book by Patricia McKissack we’d like to feature: The Dark-Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural (illustrated by Brian Pinkney).

From Publishers Weekly: When I was growing up in the South, writes McKissack, we called the half hour just before nightfall the dark-thirty. Her nine stories and one poem, however, are far too good to be reserved for that special time when it is neither day nor night and when shapes and shadows play tricks on the mind. These short works-haunting in both senses of the word-explore aspects of the African American experience in the South, from slavery to the Underground Railroad and emancipation, from the era of Pullman cars to the desegregation of buses, from the terror of the Ku Klux Klan to ’60s activism. Here, African Americans’ historical lack of political power finds its counterbalance in a display of supernatural power: ghosts exact vengeance for lynchings; slaves use ancient magic to enforce their master’s promise of emancipation. As carefully executed as McKissack’s writings, Pinkney’s black-and-white scratchboard illustrations enhance the book’s atmosphere*, at once clearly regional in setting and otherworldly in tone. Ages 8-12. (Oct.)

Interesting note*, according to Pat, “The writer and illustrator don’t work together. The writer and editor work to make sure the text is polished. The art director chooses an illustrator whose artwork best represents the text. The artist and illustrator sometimes never meet or talk to each other. It is really a matter of trust and confidence in the publishing team that you work with.”


  • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (December 3, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679883355
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679883357

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