“American Tall Tales” is a set of tales from famous tall tale heroes of the west, African-American history, and of the Mississippi. Mary Pope Osborne’s hilarious retelling of the American heroes and Michael McCurdy’s wood engraved drawings both make these set of collections an instant treat.
“American Tall Tales” is a collection of tall tales about famous tall tale legends in America that made a difference in the world today. These legends have proved the impossible by performing stunts that no ordinary human could ever do. There are a total of nine stories in this book, but here are some of my favorite tall tales:
SALLY ANN THUNDER ANN WHIRLWIND
The story starts off with the legendary tall tale hero, Davy Crockett, taking a walk in the woods when suddenly it starts to rain and Davy decides to take shelter under a tree. When Davy wakes up in the morning, he finds his head stuck in the crotch of a tree and as hard as he tried to get it out, his head would not come out of the tree. Suddenly, a girl comes by and asks him what is wrong and Davy tells her about his predicament and the girl decides to help him. The girl pulls out some rattlesnakes out of her bag and tied them together to form a rope and wraps them around the branch of a tree. During that time, the girl keeps bragging about herself, especially in this memorable line:
“I CAN OUTGRIN, OUTSNORT, OUTRUN, OUTLIFT, OUTSNEEZE, OUTSLEEP, OUTLIE ANY VARMIT FROM MAINE TO LOUISIANA.”
The girl then gets Davy out of the tree and Davy asks for the girl’s name and the girl tells him that her name is Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind. From then on, Davy Crockett was in love with Sally Ann and asked everyone around the town about her and every story about her made Davy love her even more. There was a story that stood out and it was the story of Sally’s encounter with the Great King Bear. One night, Sally was churning her butter, when she hears scratching at the door and in comes King Bear who wants her smoked hams. So, Sally puts in a warm dumpling in his mouth and even though King Bear loves the taste of the dumpling, he wants Sally for dinner and Sally quickly thinks of a plan to save herself and she asks the Bear if he would like to dance and the Bear says he would love to. So they start dancing around the room and Sally ties a string from the bear’s ankle to the butter churn so that the bear churned her butter.
When Davy starts bragging about how great Sally is, Mike Fink starts getting tired of Davy talking about her and he decides to dress himself in an old alligator skin in order to scare Sally. When he met up with Sally, he tried to embrace her with his claws, but Sally got so angry that she hits the alligator skin fifty-feet away from Mike and then she knocks him clear across the woods. When Davy finds out what Sally did to Mike, he rushes off to meet her and asks her to marry him, which she gladly agrees to.
The story starts out with Mose, a giant and brave volunteer firefighter, coming into Paradise Soup House, his favorite restaurant, and orders a plate of pork and beans. Suddenly, a fire alarm rings in City Hall Tower signaling a fire and Mose immediately runs out of the Soup House and joins the other volunteer firefighters while they get the fire machine, Lady Washington, and they start running through the city. While the volunteer firefighters ran through the streets, a trolley gets stuck on the tracks blocking their way. Mose then uses his great strength and lifts the trolley off the tracks with one hand and places it on the side of the street.
When the firefighters reach Front Street, they spot a tenement building on fire and the volunteer firefighters start to pump out water from Lady Washington to lower the fire. A lady then runs up to Mose and tells him that her baby is stuck on the third floor in the burning building and Mose immediately grabs a ladder and balances it on a barrel in order to reach the building. When Mose finally comes inside the building, the tenement suddenly crashes down. After the crash, Mose comes out of the debris and looks for the woman who lost her baby and he gives the woman her baby back. From then on, Mose was famous all over New York City for his courageous skills in being a true volunteer firefighter.
Unfortunately, the town did not seem to want Mose or the other volunteer firefighters anymore when something new comes to the city. One day, Mose and his men hear the fire alarm once again in City Hall Tower and head to Houston Street to attend to the fire. But when they arrived there, a large crowd of people were standing by looking at a horse drawn steam fire engine putting out the fire by six men pumping it. When Mose tried to put out the fire, the people tell him that these “new” machines will be all over the city and that the old volunteer firefighters will not be needed anymore. Mose was so angry at this spectacle, that he pushes Lady Washington into the dock and leaves the scene. Ever since then, Mose had disappeared and many people believed that Mose was still among them as the spirit of old New York and when the shiny new machines break down and the city fire alarm rings again, Mose would have grown at least twenty feet tall.
I would have added more stories to my favorites, but then you would be reading this review all day if I did.
“American Tall Tales” is a great book about tall tale legends that made a difference in the world. One of the best advantages in this book is the colorful characters. Each tall tale character is a portrait of self confidence and perseverance and each try to achieve their goals and therefore, become great figures in history. A couple of great examples would be of Mose the Fireman who volunteers to save innocent lives, regardless of him not being paid for his work. Mose lives to help people in danger of losing their lives in a fire and would stop at nothing to make sure that the people get out of the dangerous situations that they are in alive. Another great example would be John Henry, who sacrificed his life to save the duties of the other workers so that they would not lose their jobs to the drill machine. Michael McCurdy’s wood engraved drawings are magnificent as he gives this book an old-fashioned style, especially when he creatively illustrates each tall tale character as tough yet friendly looking figures.
“American Tall Tales” is probably the greatest retelling of America’s greatest tall tale heroes and how they made a difference during their time and helped encouraged modern day readers to believe in themselves and do the right thing. Parents who want to teach their children about American Folktales would be interested in this book as it is suitable for children ages five years and older.
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