Friday, July 6, 2018

African American Tall Tales

Julius Lester, author
Jerry Pinkney, illustrator
Birds, bears, panthers, and even a unicorn come out of the woods when John Henry is born.  Within moments of his arrival, John jumps out of his mother’s arms and grows taller than the roof!  The next morning he gets up and chops an acre of trees down.  As John ventures out west, he single-handedly crushes gigantic boulders and digs through a mountain!  There are many versions of this tale, but Lester’s stands out for its humorous personification, colorful hyperbole, and engaging storytelling.


Mary E. Lyons, author
Terry Widener, illustrator
Roy Tyle has a way with automobiles.  People say he “can grease an axle faster than you can say 'carburetor,' and he can clean spark plugs just by looking at them hard." Roy believes there is a fatal flaw in the factory cars—they can get into accidents.  So, he takes his talents to the next level—building his own car. After spending an hour in his garage, he comes out with one that is “accident proof.” In test after test, his car avoids cars and trucks by sliding over or under them.  He doesn’t stop there though…he builds a another car that goes so far as to impress God, himself!


Jerdine Nolen, author
Kadir Nelson, illustrator
From the moment Big Jabe shows up as a small boy floating in a basket down the river, he uses his extraordinary abilities to help the slaves on the Plenty Plantation.  When the fish aren’t biting, he commands them to jump from the river and into the wagon.  When works needs to be done, he is able to single-handedly complete it—allowing the others some much-deserved rest.  Even the plants and animals change in remarkable ways when he is present.  When slaves begin to disappear without a trace, some wonder if Jabe is the one rescuing them.


Jerdine Nolen, author
Kadir Nelson, illustrator
On a summer night during a fierce thunderstorm, a lively baby is born.  Rather than cry out while taking her first breath of life, she sits up and takes hold of the lightning and thunder.  Then, she tells her parents she is partial to the name Rose, so they call her Thunder Rose.  Full of spunk, determination, and confidence, Thunder Rose accomplishes everything she sets out to do.  She amazes her parents by drinking her milk while holding up a cow, creating objects with scrap metal, staking a fence without assistance, and building a sky scraper—all before the age of ten! These thrilling feats are just the beginning of her story!


Andrea Davis Pinkney, author
Brian Pinkney, illustrator
Feisty as a kettle of just-caught fish, Peggony-Po is able to climb a look out mast and catch whales on the high seas—all before the age of 4!  There is just one whale that eludes even that most skilled sailor’s grasp—Cetus!  Peggony-Po is determined to catch that whale—known for wrecking havoc for sailors and, even, land folk.  The young boy ventures off in search of Cetus without even bothering to take a boat!  This high seas adventures, full of astonishing acts and vivid similes, celebrates the many brave African American sailors who worked side by side as equals with white sailors on whaling ships in a time of great inequality.

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