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A Treasury of American Folklore and Folk Songs

edited by Amy L. Cohn & illustrated by Molly Bang

Age Range: 4 - 12

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-590-42868-3
Publisher: Scholastic

A swell compilation (almost as good as the 150,000 first printing, BOMC choice, etc., suggests) of "the heart and soul of America's story" --folk tales and songs from major ethnic groups, historical vignettes, and more, all arranged in 15 topical sections (with eight to ten entries each) on historical periods, typical genres (tricksters; nonsense; animal stories), and such quintessentially American topics as railroads, tall-tale heroes, and baseball (including Abbott and Costello's "Who's on First?"--one of several entries not easily available elsewhere). Cohn's selections are informed by conscience as well as diversity (the ten pieces in the section entitled "Let My People Go" all represent African-American points of view); her range, representation, and ear for cadence, humor, and appeal are admirable. The best entries are well-honed songs and stories left in the form in which they earned their popularity; the abridgments, retellings, and historical summaries don't have the same energy, but do help tie it all together and make a vehicle for the art that comprises nearly half of this generously huge book. The 14 blue-ribbon artists, most of them Caldecott medalists, aren't always at their best here, nor do they always work in their trademark styles and media (Van Allsburg's humorous "Frozen Logger" is in intricate pen and ink), but there's a wealth of splendid images (Ed Young's concluding "Earth/always/endures"--Native American), and some intriguing matches (Trina Schart Hyman illustrating a Julius Lester tale originally visualized by fellow contributor Jerry Pinkney). Introductory comments for each entry plus interesting endnotes (including "Read More About It" sections) and more specific acknowledgements yield a lot (but not always the actual sources for the retold stories, and it's cumbersome to search all three). A treasure-trove for browsing, enlivening the curriculum, reading aloud, devouring whole, or returning to nibble again and again. (Anthology. 4-12)