AMERICAN FOLK by Charles Sullivan


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Age Range: 9 - 12
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Sullivan (Imaginary Animals, 1996, etc.) strips some classics of all their energy, rendering the tellings bloodless and often boring. The pages are filled with familiar and lesser-known characters: Davy Crockett, Johnny Appleseed, Molly Pitcher, and Calamity Jane share the stage with the River God’s Wife, Pirates in Petticoats, Elfrego Baca, and Compair Bouki. Most of these tales are compressed into two pages, so there is no room for any build-up, no sense of rhythm or climax—it’s all flat. The versions are often arbitrary in feel: John Henry’s tale is retold by a grandfather to his first-grade grandson, and loses all the power that Julius Lester instilled in his John Henry (1994), while the protagonist of “Paul Bunyan and His Blue Ox ‘Babe’ “ is Winifred Winslow, who owns a lumber camp (Paul and Babe have walk-on roles). Sullivan does cast a wide net, with American tales from numerous cultures: rural and urban, native, European, and Asian. While children will be able to look up names or tales in Sullivan’s general groupings, such as “Characters Larger than Life” and the sections on outlaws, heroes, colorful characters, and incredible animals, there is no bibliography. Stick with more vibrant collections, such as Neil Philip’s American Fairy Tales (1996), Mary Pope Osborne’s American Tall Tales (1991) or Robert D. San Souci’s Cut from the Same Cloth (1993). (Folklore. 9-12)

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-8109-0655-4
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Abrams
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1998


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