Cold Feet

by Cynthia C. DeFelice
pictures by Robert Andrew Parker
© 2000

The Story

When Willie McPhee, the finest bagpipe player in all of Scotland, goes looking for customers who have a wee bit extra to spend on merriment, he finds more than he bargained for. On a cold, wet, miserable night, Willie trips over a tree trunk in the dark. Peering closer, he sees that the fallen tree isn’t a tree at all, but a man, a DEAD man, lying stone cold frozen in the snow. “A-A-A-aaaaaah!” screams Willie. But then he notices that the body is wearing some fine-looking boots. A poor man is a practical man, and so soon Willie has a shiny new pair of boots. He puts them to good use tricking a stingy farmer-and then, in a startling twist, the original owner of the boots comes looking for him!

A Note from the Author

I have always loved hearing, telling, and reading spooky stories. When I was a school librarian, I found that the kids loved them, too, especially when they were funny.

At the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesboro, Tennessee, I heard a master storyteller named Richard Walker tell a story I thought was perfectly hilarious and creepily macabre. He later told me that almost every British storyteller has the tale in his repertoire, but it was new to me. I wanted to retell it for American audiences. I hoped that, like me, they would find it delightful.

I was so thrilled with the paintings that Robert Andrew Parker did for my other funny-spooky folktale, The Dancing Skeleton, that I hoped he’d like Willie McPhee’s tale, as well, and agree to illustrate Cold Feet. Bob loved the story, and the proof is in his wonderful pictures. When he called to say he imagined Willie dressed in a kilt, with his poor, red, cold knees sticking out, I knew we had a winner!


“DeFelice and Parker (previously paired for The Dancing Skeleton) join forces again, this time to polish up a Scottish ghost story….DeFelice pitches this deliciously eerie tale in the kind of cadence and language that make for a grand read-aloud (e.g. the near shoeless Willie goes “flip-flap, flip-flap, fli-flap down the road”), and she neatly preserves the regional flavor (“Och! They were fine-looking boots, they were!”) Beautifully set off by the understated book design, Parker’s watercolors rank with his finest.” – Publishers Weekly Sept 4, 2000 * starred review

“…DeFelice, in step with Parker’s well-placed illustrations, demonstrates a masterful command of pace….The twists from ghoulish to slapstick to spooky step lightly, and Parker’s ink-and-watercolor paintings have a rustic elegance that help the story keep its shape. A good choice for cold winter nights as well as Halloween, the book concludes with a note on where DeFelice first heard the tale.” – Horn Book Sept/Oct 2000 * starred review

“Another hilariously macabre folktale from the creators of The Dancing Skeleton (1989).” – Kirkus Reviews July 1, 2000 * starred review


2001 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Best Picture Book
An American Library Association Notable Book for Children
Listed by New York Public Library in “100 Books for Reading and Sharing 2000”