(Note from Kevin: A few years ago, I was a reviewer for The Graphic Classroom. I really enjoyed the way we look at graphic novels with a lens towards the classroom. The site got taken over by another site, and then … I guess the owner of The Graphic Classroom stopped doing what he was doing. Which is fine. But I still had some reviews “sitting in the can” so I am finally digging them out to share out here.)
Story Summary: This collection of previously published graphic tall tales by Stone Arch Books brings together the humorous and sidesplitting stories of Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, John Henry and Johnny Appleseed under one roof. I won’t use hyperbole here to sell this collection. Suffice it to say that if you are a teacher with tall tales in your curriculum (you know how you are), then TALL TALES: GREAT AMERICAN FOLKTALES should be part of your collection. There’s plenty to love in these story, and the use of the graphic novel format is perfectly aligned because the pictures tell the story, and stretch the tales beyond imagination, just as one would expect. I sort of wish the collection had added a lesser-known story or two (maybe Sally Ann Thunder Ann or someone like that. Sally Ann often gets regulated to sidekick status with Davey Crockett). There is something unique and wonderful about the bizarre structure and exaggeration of the American tall tale, and this collection is yet another way for students to gain access to that rich folklore of storytelling.
Art Review: The illustrations in all four of these stories are wonderfully done. Some, like the Paul Bunyan story, are wacky and outrageous. Others, like the John Henry story, are muted, and allow the story to unfold in its own time. The weakest of the bunch of probably Johnny Appleseed, which sort of seems like the throwaway story of the collection (or maybe that is just my opinion of that tall tale, which never did much for me). There, the artwork is fairly plain, and after reading the other three pieces and viewing the art magic of the tall tales, one feels sort of let down by the Appleseed story.
• Paperback: 144 pages
• Publisher: Stone Arch Books (January 1, 2012)
• Language: English
• ISBN-10: 1434240681
• ISBN-13: 978-1434240682
In the Classroom: It’s no secret that American tall tales are a main element of curriculum at a certain grade (in some states, it is second grade; in others, third or fourth grade). TALL TALES: GREAT AMERICAN FOLKTALES is a great addition to other resources, and the use of graphic stories to tell the tales might make it more inviting to some students. And hopefully, the introduction of classic characters such as Paul Bunyan and Pecos Bill will open the door to investigation of lesser-known (but still very interesting) characters of tall tales, which staked their claim as classic oral storytelling around campfires before becoming serialized in newspapers, eventually coming into their own as books and short stories (and now, graphic novels).
My Recommendation: I highly recommend this tall tale collection for any classroom. While it might fit nicely in the elementary curriculum, I suspect that even middle and high school students would get a kick out of revisiting some old friends and their outlandish escapades in the wilds of American history.
Peace (with hyperbole and more),