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Tall by Donald Lemke, editor.
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Stone Arch has outdone it self in the art for this collection of tall tales in comics form. The layout for the front matter alone, with its wood-grain, Wild West typography, is breathtaking. A special thanks to the editors who decided to embrace the all-capitals lettering style, unlike earlier Capstone comics, which will help comics fans feel these titles are "real comics, not school comics." Each tale is followed by additional information about the American mythical characters.

"Paul Bunyan" is full of jokes ("Where have the years gone?" "He probably ate them"), and the illustrations have slapstick humor (wrestling Old Man Winter, men skating to grease Paul's skillet) throughout. This variant breathes new life into the tall tale, reminding us of how much fun it must have been for the original storytellers to dream up one more whopper with each new telling. As Paul and his faithful Babe travel the U.S. (creating, among other things, Minnesota's Ten Thousand Lakes and the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee), teachers can pair his tale with studies of the U.S. regions.

The illustration style is similar, but the southwestern color palette of "Pecos Bill" sets it apart from its predecessor. While more somber and straightforward in its storytelling, the cheeky drawing of a long-mustachioed baby Bill keeps the illustration style light and the tall tale elements blooming. Of use to teachers is that each story tells a different version of the creation of the Grand Canyon.

"John Henry" has more three-dimensional illustrations and shadings, including a sepia-toned color palette and feels, at times, more like a picture book than a comic in its style. And that's a terrific diversion from the earlier two tales, because it adds long-overdue nuance and depth to the storytelling. This John Henry seems guileless and surprised by his own strength, adding dimensionality and context for why he might race the machine. The closing illustrations in deep violets are spectacular.

Compared to the visual richness of "John Henry," the illustrations for "Johnny Appleseed" are a letdown. Simple computer-generated art feels flat and pulls down the dialogue, which feels stilted or rushed at times. Perhaps had the story been re-sequenced so that the tall tale elements were interspersed instead of clustered together, this might have been a more worthy companion to the others.

If your library has been searching for updated tall tales to meet curriculum standards, consider this volume as a worthy companion to the works of Audrey and Don Wood and Steven Kellogg. Highly recommended.

Now, Stone Arch, how about Tall, Volume II, featuring women? (210) ( )
  activelearning | Nov 26, 2011 |
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