Book Review: The Skull: A Tyrolean Folktale by Jon Klassen

The Skull: A Tyrolean Folktale by Jon Klassen. Candlewick, 2023. 9781536223361. 108pp.

I picked this up at Third Place Books and then had to buy a copy. The free print that came with it had something to do with that, but mostly I was buying it for the illustrations, and because the shelf talker was right, it’s a perfect children’s book.

It’s about a girl named Otilla, who runs away in the middle of the night. She runs and runs and falls and in the forest finds a huge house that looks abandoned. But it has one resident, a skull who has lived there a long time. (He can talk and move around with some difficulty, but he needs some help.) There’s a bottomless pit, a bunch of spooky masks, and a tower, and something that comes looking for the skull every night.

The story is spooky, but not too spooky. In Klassen’s author’s note at the end, he explains how he first read the original tale (in a library) and how his brain misremembered it. I’m so glad the bookseller who sold me a copy told me to read his comments.


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