Here Comes McBroom is written by Sid Fleischman, author of Jim Ugly which is one of my favorite stories. I was hoping to find something similar here. Hmmm.
Here Comes McBroom actually consists of three stories in the life of Josh McBroom. They are McBroom the Rainmaker, McBroom’s Ghost, and McBroom’s Zoo.
In McBroom the Rainmaker, the McBroom farm is suffering from a drought which has robbed their miraculously fertile farm of its growing capabilities. In fact, things have gotten so dry, that the dirt’s working in reverse order – things are shrinking instead of growing when they touch the soil. And these woodpecker sized zap-zinging mosquitoes are becoming quite the nuisance. Can McBroom think of a way to get rid of the mosquitoes – and end the drought?
In McBroom’s Ghost, strange things are happening on the McBroom’s special farm. Sounds are appearing out of nowhere. They’re familiar sounds – Pa McBroom calling the children, old Sillibub’s cock-a-doodle-doo, and the piccolos from the Sousa record that McBroom sometimes plays. Trouble is, they’re coming at the wrong time. It must be a ghost haunting and imitating them! What can McBroom do to get rid of THIS trouble?
In McBroom’s Zoo, after a tornado blows through the famous McBroom farm and removes all of the miraculous topsoil from its berth (it stole the tomatoes, onions, and vinegar too; turned them to ketchup in the air!), McBroom must think of a way to cart back all of the soil. (They chased the tornado, see, clear to where it plunked down their dirt.) It would take a near fortune to cart back all of their soil. The McBrooms are devastated. What should they do?
But the tornado didn’t just take things; it also left a few things, including a Sidehill Gouger, Desert Vamooser, Spotted Compass Cat, and a Silver-Tailed Teakettler, all very rare animals. So, McBroom decides to set up a zoo where their farmstead used to be. Can the McBrooms raise enough money to cart back their farm, or will the evil hunter destroy their zoo first?
As I’m sure you were able to surmise from the above synopses, Here Comes McBroom is tall tale through and through. Every story is filled with outrageous exaggerations which are obviously untrue and even impossible. While I as an older reader found parts of it funny, I also found it to be very silly. I also believe that because it is so funny, that it would encourage children to tell lies in the name of trying to be funny themselves and of ‘telling stories’. I’ll include the opening passage of the story as an example of the exaggerations.
“I dislike telling you this, but some folks have no regard for the truth. A stranger claims he was riding a mule past our wonderful one-acre farm and was attacked by woodpeckers.
Well, there’s no truth to that. No, indeed! Those weren’t woodpeckers. They were common prairie mosquitoes.
Why, skeeters grow so large out here that everybody uses chicken wire for mosquito netting. But I’m not going to say an unkind word about those zing-zanging, hot-tempered, needle-nosed creatures. They rescued our farm from ruin. That was during the Big Drought we had last year.
Dry? Merciful powers! Our young’uns found some polliwogs and had to teach them to swim. It hadn’t rained in so long those tadpoles had never seen water.
That’s the sworn truth – certain as my name’s Josh McBroom. Why, I’d as soon grab a skunk by the tail as tell a falsehood.
Now, I’d best creep up on the Big Drought the way it crept up on us. I remember we did our spring plowing as usual, and the skeeters hatched out as usual. The bloodsucking rapscallions could be mighty pesky, but we’d learned to distract them. The thirsty critters would drink up anything red.
“Willjillhesterchesterpeterpollytimtommarylarryandlittleclarinda!” I called out. “I hear the whine of gallinippers. Better put in a batch of beets.”
Once the beets were up the skeeters stuck in their long beaks like straws. Didn’t they feast, though! They drained out the red juice, the beets turned white, and we harvested them as turnips.
The first sign of a dry spell coming was when our clocks began running slow. We grew our own clocks on the farm.
Now I’ll admit that may be hard to believe, but not if you understand the remarkable nature of our topsoil. Rich? Glory be! Anything would grow in it –lickety-bang. Three or four crops a day until the confounded Big Dry came along.
Of course, we didn’t grow clocks with gears and springs and a name on the dial. Came close once, though. I dropped my dollar pocket watch one day, and before I could find it, the thing had put down roots and grown into a three-dollar alarm clock. But it never kept accurate time after that. [pgs. 7-10]
Get the idea? Very funny, but entirely fabricated.
Apart from the tall tale aspect of the book, one of the stories deals directly with ghosts. Sounds are coming from nowhere – imitative sounds, sounds that McBroom and the household sometimes make but aren’t making when they sound. So the McBrooms decide that it must be a ghost who is playing tricks on them. The McBrooms even purchase a dog to root out the ghost, but to no avail. The sounds keep right on sounding. In the end, McBroom comes up with the explanation. All of those sounds had been frozen by the horrible winter they just lived through, and what they heard was the sounds thawing out, not a ghost after all!
‘Tarnation’ is used four times and ‘thunderation’ once.
One of McBroom’s neighbours is called ‘Heck Jones’. Because of this, the word ‘heck’ is used a lot.
Conclusion. Here Comes McBroom is not horrible, but it is very silly and may encourage untruthfulness in children. For this reason I do not recommend it. Much better reading can be found elsewhere and even in some of Fleischman’s other works (Jim Ugly).
Review © 2013 Laura Verret