This colorful, exuberant collection of nine traditional American folk tales are peopled with wildly exaggerated heroes and heroines. In her informative introduction, versatile and prolific author Mary Pope Osborne explains that the origin of these characters is "from various combinations of historical fact, storytelling of ordinary people, and the imaginations of professional writers." Osborne's stories reveal a wide range of geographical settings, and illustrate the many different occupations — pioneer settlers, backwoodsmen and women, farmers, volunteer firefighters, sailors, cowboys, laborers, and loggers — that contributed to the development of America.
Osborne's focus is on the absurd humor, vulnerability and compassionate aspects of her tales, despite their, at times, prejudiced and violent leanings. Through one of the collection's female characters, Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind, Osborne portrays an outrageously bold and ingenious frontier woman who can match any of her male counterparts and more. The mythical or possibly real John Henry is shown to be a strong, hard-working African American hero. Pecos Bill's wife, Slue-foot Sue, doesn't ride his bronco, Widow Maker, as an act of wifely disobedience, but as a way to test her skill. Michael McCurdy's rugged, color-tinted wood engravings beautifully support the frontier theme of the book.
Osborne introduces each story with background information that provides factual contrast to the larger-than-life tales. Also included is a story-by-story bibliography listing primary sources, including books, and articles that Osborne found helpful. Use this lively collection to inspire readers to write their own tall tales about the people who helped shape America.