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Tall: Great American Folktales by Donald…
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Tall: Great American Folktales

by Donald Lemke (Editor)

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Reason for Reading: I love folklore and I love the Graphic Spin series put out by Capstone Press.

This is an omnibus collection of four previously published single volumes in the series, gathered together in this affordable trade paperback edition. An attractive, sturdily bound volume, this will make the perfect purchase for the home while the individual volumes are more suited to libraries and classrooms. I enjoyed all the stories and really have never been disappointed with anything from this line. Capstone uses top quality authors and industry experienced artists. Recommended for those who enjoy the genre. The following describes each book included as I read it, which were originally published as separate volumes in 2010:

1. The Tall Tale of Paul Bunyan by Martin Powell. art by Aaron Blecha. General retelling of the usual stories associated with Bunyan and Babe: the making of the 10,000 lakes, Lake Superior, the Grand Canyon, his fight with Old Man Winter, etc. Starts off with a cute scenario of what his childhood and parents must have been like. A good, fun introduction to the folk hero. The artwork is splendid in a fun, modern comic style with a bit of the grossness factor added. A delightful addition to any collection. 4/5

2. Pecos Bill, Colossal Cowboy by Sean Tulien. art by Lisa Weber. Honestly this is not a folktale I'm very familiar with. Of course, I've heard of Pecos Bill but the tale was not that familiar to me at all. I found it quite silly actually, more so than other tall tales and this may be because it is believed that Pecos Bill is a modern invention rather than a true folk hero. Apparently Pecos Bill created the Grand Canyon also. However, the story was great fun and I love Lisa K. Weber's art. She is also found quite often in the Graphic Classics series. Another fun story. 3/5

3. John Henry, Hammerin' Hero by Stephanie Peters. art by Nelson Evergreen. Wonderful retelling of the John Henry story which is based on some truth with a lot of legend mixed in. I really enjoyed this one and so far find it the best one in the collection. The author is on staff with the publisher and I've enjoyed some of her other books; the illustrator is new to me and has a wonderful style which really captures the African-American experience of this tale without actually making much of a deal about the man's race, except for the slavery/freedom issue. A more realistic tall tale since John Henry was only a larger than normal man, not a giant or super-powered like the previous two in the collection. The final two pages present a newspaper format historical overview separating fact from fiction and giving details on where one can visit to see memorials to this folk hero. 5/5

4. The Legend of Johnny Appleseed by Martin Powell. art by Michelle Lamoreaux. Another fun folk tale with art that is slightly manga-esque. A good story that starts off with the tale of the real John Chapman before venturing off onto the tall tales that grew surrounding him, thus making him a folk hero. Manages to cover all the popular tales of Johnny from his walking across a rainbow to helping the giant catfish. The tale ends with a timeline of the real John Chapman's life. A good ending to the collection with a familiar tale. 4/5 ( )
  ElizaJane | May 15, 2012 |
Four American folktales come alive in this collection of comics from award-winning creators Aaron Blecha, Martin Powell, Lisa K. Weber, Sean Tulien, Nelson Evergreen, Stephanie True Peters, and Michelle Lemoreaux. Tall includes the following stories: Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, John Henry, and Johnny Appleseed.

Tall: Great American Folktales is a comic anthology retelling the story of these four legends. Each tale is 34 pages in length with illustrations that are often as tall and colorful as the tale.
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The Tall Tale of Paul Bunyan Retold by Martin Powell with art by Aaron Blecha, Paul Bunyan is an American legend like no other. Paul and his companion Babe, a blue ox, stomped through Minnesota, leaving behind the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes and through Tennessee where Paul created The Smoky Mountains. Legend has it that Paul and Babe loved to wrestle and would do so for days at a time. It was during one of these playtimes that Paul and Babe made the Grand Canyon. Paul then defeated Old Man Winter, whose tears are now Lake Superior. No one knows where the two went to after that. When I was a kid, I saw them in Indiana and a few years later in Michigan.

Pecos Bill Colossal Cowboy Retold by Sean Tulien with Lisa Weber illustrating, Pecos Bill was a star of the Old West and the best cowboy anyone had ever seen or ever will. He showed all the other cowboys how to rustle cattle with a lasso he invented and introduced the branding iron as a way of knowing which cattle belonged to which cowboy. With his side-kick Widow Maker, Pecos Bill lassoed a monster twister and squeezed it so tight it cried itself dry, forming The Rio Grande. Once, Bill shot out all the stars, except for the largest and shiniest, now known as The Lone Star.

John Henry: Hammerin’ Hero Retold by Stephanie Peters and artist Nelson Evergreen, John Henry was a tall man with iron muscles and a heart made out of gold. Born with an iron hammer in his hand, John set off to make my mark on the world shortly after the North won the civil war freeing the slaves. John found work on the railroad laying track. John could hammer a steel rod into the ground with one strike, and he was fast. A fancy steam-powered drill salesman heard stories of John saving fellow workers from cave-ins and other heroic feats. He challenged John to a race, saying his machine could out drill any man. Big Ben Mountain was the site of the contest between man and machine. John won but paid a heavy price for his victory.

The Legend of Johnny Appleseed Retold by Martin Powell and illustrated by Michelle Lamoreaux, John Chapman was born in Leominster, Massachusetts. His life goal was to plant apple seeds throughout the country so no one went hungry. Johnny and his companion Brother Wolfe walked around the country planting his seeds and making friends everywhere they went. Johnny Appleseed became a living legend. All sorts of stories about Johnny Appleseed have been told, some true, some not so true. Some say he played with grizzly bears, wrestle three at once. Others say he tamed a giant catfish that was causing shipwrecks. Still others say Johnny Appleseed walked on a rainbow, planting apple seeds along the way.
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Tall tales are about characters that are bigger than real life, though sometimes based on a real person or a composite of two or more people. The stories are unbelievable but told like the real thing. Johnny Appleseed was a real man who did walk the country planting apple trees. He traveled from Illinois to Pennsylvania, and down to Kentucky. In addition to apples, Johnny planted herbs used in medicines. Born in 1775, John Chapman lived to be age 70.

John Henry was also a real man and he did work the railroad. He was a powerful man and he was a strong man. John drove spikes into rock, just as the legend claims. No one knows if he raced against a machine, but there is a monument to John Henry at one opening of the railroad tracks tunneling through Big Bend Mountain. Born in the 1850’s, John Henry was a slave until freed at the end of the Civil War.

Paul Bunyan and Pecos Bill are the two who have no traces of humanity. Both began as characters in a story and grew from there. Paul Bunyan became a character in an advertising campaign for a logging company. Pecos Bill started out in a magazine, went into a book and later comics. Still, I remember Paul and Babe from my childhood. We visited the two first in Indiana and then in Michigan. He was tall and powerful. I will never forget standing on Paul’s gigantic black boot. His story is engaging, often funny, definitely “tall,” and the one I enjoyed the most.

In Tall: Great American Folktales the illustrations of Paul Bunyan are on the cartoonish side, but I really like them. He was a big man with gentle features and his foes did not look scary. The story was great and the comics were wonderful. Pecos Bill also has the cartoon look Paul Bunyan has, just not as extreme. The frames of Pecos Bill the Coyote are hilarious. This is the next best story of the four. The illustrations of John Henry are less cartoonish than Paul Bunyan and Pesos Bill. They depict him as a tall, powerful man yet gentle.

Johnny Appleseed looks like an anime. He has the Japanese cartoon look and I see him as weak and out of place, not at all like a TALL legend but more like a fairy tale. The story of Johnny Appleseed walking from place to place on a rainbow pretty much cinched that for me. I thought the portrayal of Johnny Appleseed would be closer to the true man, like those of John Henry.

All four of these tales are engaging, often humorous and unbelievable just as tall tales should be. If you like comics, way-out fiction, and fun reads, Tall: Great American Folktales will tickle you. As a colorful introduction to folklore for the middle grades, I think it is a winner.

Note: received the eBook from net galley, courtesy of publisher, Capstone.
Originally reviewed at Kid Lit Reviews
http://kid-lit-reviews.com/2012/03/01/tall-great-american-folktales-edited-by-do... ( )
  smmorris | Mar 4, 2012 |
Tall: Great American Folktales is a wonderful retelling of the tall tales of Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, John Henry, and Johnny Appleseed in graphic novel format. It is sure to be a hit, as well as fit a requirement in the TEKs, here in Texas. The illustrations are superb and the stories true to the old tales. Tall recreates the tales in a ways that the reader will remember them for years. This is a definite purchase for my early elementary library.

Received Galley from NetGalley.com ( )
  Glenajo | Feb 11, 2012 |
American history has many folk tales, the most famous of which are that of Paul Bunyan, Johnny Appleseed, John Henry, and Pecos Bill. The stories of these four heroes is told in Tall, the Great American Folk Tale anthology. The anthology has a western theme, and the book starts out with fake old west advertisements for a variety of products. Then, the book dives into the stories of the four heroes.

The heroes are portrayed with humor, and the art is vibrant and somewhat cartoonish in style. The stories are told with a variety of jokes sure to amuse elementary aged children, such as the fact that it was so cold in one place Paul Bunyan was that his words froze in the air! This book will definitely have a place in the folktale section of a public or elementary library, as it may not circulate in the graphic novel section, as it really reads more as a folktale with pictures than a graphic novel about a folktale. Additionally, after each story there is a little section with background on the history of the folk tale. ( )
  jackiediorio | Nov 27, 2011 |
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Four American folktales come alive in this collection of comics.

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