cover image Old Dry Frye

Old Dry Frye

Paul Brett Johnson. Scholastic, $15.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-590-37658-7

With abundant colloquialisms (""Law mercy!"") and the cadences of a seasoned storyteller, Johnson (The Cow Who Wouldn't Come Down) resurrects a delectably macabre selection from Richard Chase's Grandfather Tales. ""Now, all preachers like chicken, but Old Dry Frye was the chicken-eatingest sermonizer that ever laid fire to a pulpit,"" drawls the third-person narrator. Frye's gluttony proves his undoing. At a generous family's house, the preacher chokes on a chicken bone and keels over, a platter of food resting on his ample stomach. The hijinks begin when Frye's would-be hosts hide his body in a henhouse. There, a widow mistakes Frye for a thief, conks him on the head with an iron skillet and fears that she has killed the already-dead preacher. Thus begins a slew of similar events as various townsfolk brazenly attempt to conceal the preacher's death. In the author's acrylic paintings, which resemble pastel rubbings on textured paper, Frye falls into mountain streams and rolls out of burlap sacks. The conclusion finds the cadaver bouncing along on a wild horse, transforming him into a satiric Sleepy Hollow legend. The tall-tale mood emanates from Johnson's scenes of Appalachia and the exaggerated expressions of its inhabitants. This will be a read-aloud standby. Ages 5-8. (Sept.)