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Cold Feet

by Cynthia DeFelice

School Library Journal Gr 3-6-This ghost story for the strong of stomach features a bagpiper by the name of Willie McPhee. Hard times have forced him to seek a place where people can afford his entertainment. Months pass. His boots are "more holes than leather." Alone, hungry, and tired, he trips on what he soon realizes is the frozen body of a man whose boots are too fine to leave behind. He can't remove them until he drops the man's leg, which then snaps in two. Carrying the boots (and feet within them) tied around his neck, Willie seeks shelter on a farm, only to be told by the inhospitable owner to sleep in the barn with the cow. In the morning, Willie plays a trick on his mean-spirited host and places one foot in the cow's mouth, the other beside her. The shocked farmer quickly buries the feet, and when Willie reappears to play his pipes on the grave, the man and his wife take off, never to be seen again. Later that night, as Willie enjoys the cozy warmth of the farmhouse, a footless stranger appears at the door. So ends the tale. DeFelice's language, tone, and pacing capture the essence of the oral tradition while Parker's dark and stylized watercolor and pen-and-ink illustrations reflect the playfully somber mood of the story. This is a yarn meant to amuse as well as frighten, and it succeeds at both.-Alicia Eames, New York City Public Schools Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Copyright Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly DeFelice and Parker (previously paired for The Dancing Skeleton) join forces again, this time to polish up a Scottish ghost story. When ragged, penniless Willie McPhee, "the finest bagpipe player in all of Scotland," stumbles across a dead man in the forest one snowy night, he helps himself to the boots. Unfortunately the man's feet come with them, snapping off when Willie tugs on the frozen legs. But "a poor man must be practical, after all," and Willie carries off the boots (and feet). Later he decides to play a trick on a heartless farmer who grudgingly sends him to the barn when he asks for shelter: Willie arranges the now-thawed feet to make it appear that their cow has eaten him. The horrified farmer and his wife quickly bury the evidence, but when Willie comes out of hiding and pipes a farewell tune atop the "wee small grave," they flee, thinking him a ghost. In the end, a bona fide ghost does appearDto Willie. DeFelice pitches this deliciously eerie tale in the kind of cadence and language that make for a grand read-aloud (e.g., the near-shoeless Willie goes "flip-flap, flip-flap, flip-flap down the road"), and she neatly preserves the regional flavor ("Och! They were fine-looking boots, they were!"). Beautifully set off by the understated book design, Parker's watercolors rank with his finest. The blotted impressionistic colors and scrawled lines are both edgy and amusing, while the cool gray tones create an appropriately chilly backdrop for the spooky antics. Ages 5-8. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Copyright Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Book list Gr. 2^-4. In this picture book for older children, DeFelice retells an old Scottish legend based on the "trickster tricked" theme. Willie McPhee, the finest bagpipe player in Scotland, is forced to travel far from home to find paying customers. He spends so many months on the road that "his boots [are] more holes than leather." He manages to get by in summer, spring, and fall, but he suffers when winter comes. One day, when he's nearly frozen, he stumbles over a dead body in the forest--a body with a nice pair of boots. Temptation leads to grotesque action. The eerie ending is a fine twist, and Parker's watercolors, depicting a misty Scottish landscape, are well suited to the ghostly story. The book may appear to be for young children, but the grisly theme is better suited to older ones. --Connie Fletcher

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.