The Dark-Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
The Dark-Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural Book Poster Image
Scary, award-winning African American stories.

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Kids say

age 11+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

This book may provide a way to educate kids about some historical violence and injustice, such as what the KKK is. Be prepared to start some conversations to help kids understand this book at a a deeper level.

Positive Messages

In the face of virulent racism, the stories' main characters persevere.

Positive Role Models & Representations

It's hard not to root for wronged characters -- even when they are ghosts -- who exact vengeance for past wrongs, including bullying, discrimination, and even lynchings.


A man is beaten and lynched; a boy is beaten by his father.


Includes the "N" word and other racial epithets.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that some of these stories are fairly scary, and the combination of supernatural scare (with evil spirits and ghosts) and real-life violence (a lynching, one boy is beaten by his father) may disturb some children. The stories' characters deal with racism throughout American history, and the "N" word and other racial epithets are used. These are powerful stories and may lead kids to want to know more about the historical periods in which the stories are set.

User Reviews

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Kid, 11 years old November 12, 2014
Kid, 10 years old May 23, 2010
I LOVE THIS BOOK!!!!!!!!!! It is addicting!!!!!

What's the story?

The dark-thirty is the half an hour before it becomes totally dark and the monsters come out. Here then are 10 supernaturally-tinged short stories from the African-American tradition, which span the period from pre-Civil War to modern times. Each begins with an author's note and contains a black-and-white scratchboard illustration by Brian Pinkney. Stories include a man lynched by the KKK who exacts revenge from beyond the grave, a Pullman Porter trying to avoid the final all-aboard, a woman who refuses to believe in the evil spirit haunting her family, and a woman denied a bus ride whose ghost keeps on trying to ride.

Is it any good?

Most of the stories in THE DARK-THIRTY: SOUTHERN TALES OF THE SUPERNATURAL are gripping. The supernatural element will draw in young readers, and the historical context may lead them to want to know more about the periods in which the stories are set. Veteran author Patricia McKissack has a straight-ahead prose style that grabs the reader from the start of each story. She does best with the stories that arise from a melding of history and tradition, rather than, say, the silliness of a story such as "Boo Mama," which involves a secret utopian civilization of Sasquatches. Brian Pinkney's scratchboard illustrations are striking without interfering with the reader's own visualization of the scenes.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the mix of historical violence and injustice with fantastical horror. What did you think of the mix here? Which did you ultimately find more frightening -- the supernatural stuff or the historical details?

  • This book received a Coretta Scott King Honor Award, which is an award celebrating African American authors and illustrators. Why do you think this book was chosen? Looking at the list of other winners, are there titles that you would be interested in reading?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love books about the African-American experience

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