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The Bones of Fred McFee

Last updated Friday, October 6, 2006

Author: Eve Bunting
Illustrator: Kurt Cyrus
Date of Publication: 2002
ISBN: 0152020047
Grade Level: 3rd    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Oct. 2006

Synopsis: From Publishers Weekly: This ominous book, thrillingly chillustrated in high-contrast scratchboard, describes an uncanny Halloween decoration. Fred McFee is just a toy skeleton dangling from a tree, but he makes two siblings nervous. "He isn't real, but it's hard to tell-/ He's plastic, head to toe./ But all of his bones are joined so well,/ No one would ever know!" Bunting's (Smoky Night) classic rhythms cultivate an eerie ambiguity; Fred vanishes and a grave appears. Seen from precipitous angles, Cyrus's (Sixteen Cows) realistic images of billowing curtains, glowing jack-o'-lanterns and a watchful owl will give readers goosebumps.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  How many bones do we have in our bodies?
•  Why are skeletons important for our bodies?
•  Have you ever seen an x-ray of your bones? What did they look like?

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  What makes words rhyme? What are some examples of rhyming words in the poem?
•  This book also repeats many phrases. What are some of the phrases that are repeated?
•  Is Fred McFee really dancing in the tree? What is making him move?
•  Why are the animals behaving differently? (No more flies, dog hides, hens don?t lay eggs....) What?s wrong with Sam the dog?
•  Where is Fred McFee now?

Craft ideas:
•  Make a dancing skeleton using construction paper, string or brass fasteners and a Popsicle stick. Cut out the skeleton from the construction paper; connect the joints with string or brass fastners; glue/tape body to the Popsicle stick.
•  Make a macaroni skeleton: We will need: Black construction paper, glue, small tube macaroni (spine), lima beans (head, thorax, and hips), twisted macaroni (arms and legs), elbow noodles (ribs), small shells (joints), spaghetti (fingers, toes). In making the skeleton talk about the symmetry between the two sides of the body, how many ribs, fingers, and toes we have. Let them build their skeleton, starting with the head, then the neck/trunk, working down, gluing the macaroni and beans to the paper. When they are done, they can draw a smile and eyes on the 'head.' For an example go to:

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don't have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!