Review of Skulls!

by Blair Thornburgh; illus. by Scott Campbell
Primary    Atheneum    40 pp.
7/19    978-1-5344-1400-6    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-1-5344-1401-3    $10.99

“You probably don’t think much about skulls,” the book begins, as readers meet a round-faced girl with puffball pigtails. A page-turn places the girl, who’s contentedly chomping on an apple, amid a quirky crowd. A pirate is feeding a parrot; a yippy dog has a boy in tow; a worker stands in a manhole; a lumberjack sports an ax — to name but a few. The next spread repeats the tableau, but with a twist: all the faces of this motley crew (except the girl’s) are now shown as skulls. It’s a scene that’s silly and a bit eerie. To minimize the creepiness, Thornburgh quickly reassures readers — and the girl — that having a skull “is a good thing.” With snappy writing Thornburgh describes a skull’s importance (it’s “a car seat for your brain”) and its functions (it gives a face its shape; it holds teeth in place; and more). The text also explains that a skull’s holes are for seeing, smelling, hearing, and eating. The pigtailed girl — her skull now visible — enthusiastically embraces all this newfound knowledge, even the point that “skulls are not trying to be scary. They can’t help the way they look.” Campbell packs plenty of humor into his muted watercolor illustrations (the grim reaper sips from a juice box) in this jaunty paean to human skulls. “Cool Skull Facts” are appended.

From the July/August 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Tanya D. Auger

Tanya D. Auger
Tanya D. Auger is a former middle school teacher with a master’s degree in learning and teaching from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

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