cover image Raw Head, Bloody Bones

Raw Head, Bloody Bones

Mary E. Lyons. Atheneum Books, $15 (96pp) ISBN 978-0-684-19333-5

These 15 African American tales, divided into four spooky sounding sections--``Gullah Goblins,'' ``Ghosts,'' ``Monsters'' and ``Superhumans''--derive their bewitching quality from the rhythms of the spoken word and the dancelike quality of early African American speech. In ``Dead Aaron,'' a corpse that stubbornly refuses to stay dead dances around with ``hestet yellow teeth a-snappin, and he bald bonehead a-wagglin.'' The stories are intended as moral lessons: in ``Bloody Bones,'' for example, the wielder of a gossiping tongue is beheaded. Lively, lilting cadences provide a quixotic contrast to the often gruesome subject matter; thorough introductions present cultural insight into the origins of what to most readers will be an entirely new genre in fiction. Ages 10-up. (Oct.)