The Skull: A Tyrolean Folktale

The Skull cover
The Skull by Jon Klassen

By Jon Klassen
Candlewick Press, 2023
105 pages

Ages 6-9

An author’s note reveals the inspiration behind this delightfully odd retelling: A year after first stumbling upon the Tyrolean folktale “The Skull,” Klassen reread it and found that he misremembered significant parts of it. From that slightly off tale, “[his] brain’s version,” he wrote The Skull. A runaway white girl, Otilla, comes upon a mansion in the woods, in which resides a talking skull. The skull welcomes Otilla and provides a tour of the house. In fact, the two rather hit it off. With Otilla’s help, the skull can once again enjoy tea by the fireplace and pears from the garden. He and Otilla don decorative masks and dance together in the ballroom. Then the skull reveals his secret: Every night, a headless skeleton comes looking for him. Indeed, that night the skeleton appears. It chases Otilla and the skull onto the balcony, intoning, “GIVE ME THAT SKULL. I WANT THAT SKULL,” until Otilla pushes it over the edge. In the forest, she sets about destroying the bones of the skeleton once and for all. Over breakfast the next morning, Otilla and the skull plan their day, the beginning of what will undoubtedly be a long and happy companionship. Simple text, generous font size, and classic Klassen illustrations accompany a story that manages to be eerie and cozy, funny and suspenseful all at once. ©2023 Cooperative Children’s Book Center