American Tall Tales

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The perfect addition to every family’s home library and just right for sharing aloud, American Tall Tales introduces readers to America’s first folk heroes in nine wildly exaggerated and downright funny stories.
Here are Paul Bunyan, that king-sized lumberjack who could fell “ten white pines with a single swing”; John Henry, with his mighty hammer; Mose, old New York’s biggest, bravest fireman; Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind, who could ...

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The perfect addition to every family’s home library and just right for sharing aloud, American Tall Tales introduces readers to America’s first folk heroes in nine wildly exaggerated and downright funny stories.
Here are Paul Bunyan, that king-sized lumberjack who could fell “ten white pines with a single swing”; John Henry, with his mighty hammer; Mose, old New York’s biggest, bravest fireman; Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind, who could “outgrin, outsnort, outrun, outlift, outsneeze, outsleep, outlie any varmint”; and other uniquely American characters, together in one superb collection.
In the tradition of the original nineteenth-century storytellers, Mary Pope Osborne compiles, edits, and adds her own two cents’ worth—and also supplies fascinating historical headnotes. Michael McCurdy’s robust colored wood engravings recall an earlier time, perfectly capturing all the vitality of the men and women who carved a new country out of the North American wilderness.

A little exaggeration makes legends from simple historical characters, legends that help form the fabric of our culture. In this volume, the tales of nine folk heroes are related— humorous and very tall indeed! Meet Paul Bunyan, Johnny Appleseed, Sally Ann Thunder, Ann Whirlwind, John Henry, and more, and celebrate the riches this country has to offer.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"McCurdy's intricate wood engravings set these larger-than-life folk on majestic landscapes brimming with energy, rich with wildlife and local color. The author's thoughtful introduction and notes round out this superlative offering."—(starred) School Library Journal.
Publishers Weekly
A host of old standbys are being reissued this winter. "American folk heroes of the 19th century spring to life in these splendidly retold sagas," said PW upon the 1991 publication of Mary Pope Osborne's American Tall Tales, illus. by Michael McCurdy. The gifted raconteur retells the legends of familiar figures (Davy Crockett, Paul Bunyan, Johnny Appleseed, Pecos Bill), as well as lesser-known personalities. McCurdy's elaborate full-color wood engravings, in their robust stylization, dramatically render the grandeur of the yarns. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
American folk heroes of the 19th century spring to life in these splendidly retold sagas. Osborne's reputation as a gifted raconteur Favorite Greek Myths ; Beauty and the Beast is reaffirmed in this compendium, which retells the legends of familiar figures Davy Crockett, Paul Bunyan, Johnny Appleseed, Pecos Bill, as well as lesser known personalities, such as Crockett's fictional wife Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind, a composite character shaped by tales of various real-life women. Also chronicled are heroes hailing from places other than the backwoods, including Stormalong, a giant sailor who as a baby was washed onto a Cape Cod beach by a tidal wave, and Mose, a New York City fireman immortalized in an 1848 Broadway play. As tantalizing as Osborne's storytelling are McCurdy's The Owl-Scatterer elaborate, full-color wood engravings, which in their robust stylization dramatically render the grandeur of these engrossing yarns. Ages 6-up. Oct.
Children's Literature - Sharon Salluzzo
An artistic map of the United States appears at the beginning of the book and places these nine tall tale heroes (eight men and one woman) in their geographical locales. Since these tales are intrinsically connected to the 19th century expansion of the United States, it is fitting and proper to begin this way. In her introduction, Osborne states that she chose to emphasize the "humane side of the tall tale characters," while including accurate period detail. The resulting stories are thoroughly engaging. The exaggerated humor will have children eager to turn the pages for one more story. McCurdy's detailed wood engravings are perfectly suited to the rugged bravado of these larger than life heroes. There are familiar characters, such as Davy Crockett, Johnny Appleseed, Pecos Bill, John Henry, and Paul Bunyan as well as the lesser known Sally Ann Thunder, Ann Whirlwind, Stormalong, Mose, and Febold Feboldson. "Notes on the Story" precedes the retelling and provides an introduction to the character and his/her deeds. The "Bibliography" provides the primary resources and other books and articles that Osborne found useful in creating her retellings. Perfect for units about tall tales, but also a great resource for discussions about 19th century Americans and their impact on our lives today.
School Library Journal
Gr 3-6-- This strikingly handsome, oversized volume presents nine all-American figures whose overblown exploits take them from coast to coast and through all manner of occupations and preoccupations. Osborne has chosen familiar fictitious characters--Pecos Bill, Paul Bunyan, Febold Feboldson--and actual people, such as Johnny Appleseed and Davy Crockett, and relates episodes that stress the individuals' human weaknesses as well as strengths. She has melded several legendary characters into a single heroine, Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind, who more than holds her own in such grand company. The rip-roaring action, broad humor, and colorful language of the convention are all here, but the violence is kept to a minimum and the laughs aren't at anyone's expense, except perhaps the subjects, who feel rather foolish on occasion. McCurdy's intricate wood engravings tinted with watercolor equal their tall task. He sets these larger-than-life folk on majestic landscapes brimming with energy, rich with wildlife and local color. The author's thoughtful introduction and notes round out this superlative offering. It's ``the whole steamboat!'' --Luann Toth, School Library Journal
School Library Journal
Gr 3-6- Mary Pope Osborne's retelling of tales about America's folk heroes (Random, 1991) includes an introduction to each tale which tells where and when the stories were first published, and often explains other variations of the tales. The tales include Davy Crockett, Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind, Johnny Appleseed, Stormalong, Mose, Febold Feboldson, Pecos Bill, John Henry, and Paul Bunyan. Most of the characters covered are white males, but there is some diversity with the inclusion of Sally Ann and John Henry. Each story is separated by folk music featuring harmonicas or fiddles. The narrator, actor Scott Snively, uses a matter-of-fact voice to present the historical information, and a very expressive voice for the stories. His different accents are appropriate and often amusing. A few appropriate sound effects are used. A good choice for school and public libraries.-Linda Gray, Lon Morris College, Jacksonville, TX Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679800897
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 9/28/1991
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 128
  • Sales rank: 204,875
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.25 (w) x 11.10 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Meet the Author

Mary Pope Osborne

Mary Pope Osborne is the award-winning author of over sixty books for children. Her works include One World, Many Religions; New York’s Bravest; Tales from the Odyssey; Adaline Falling Star; and the Magic Tree House series, a New York Times number one bestselling children’s book series that has sold over 100 million copies worldwide. Ms. Osborne lives in northwestern Connecticut with her husband, Will.
Michael McCurdy is a distinguished illustrator whose wood engravings and drawings have enhanced many books for both adults and children. From 1968 to 1985, he owned Penmaen Press Books, where he produced beautiful small-press first editions by leading American and European writers and poets. He wrote and illustrated An Algonquin Year: The Year According to the Full Moon and edited and illustrated Escape from Slavery: The Boyhood of Frederick Douglass in His Own Words. He lives with his wife, Deborah, in Massachusetts.


Ever since 1992, Mary Pope Osborne has been thrilling kids everywhere with her delightfully exciting Magic Tree House series. The globetrotting escapades of time travelers Jack and Annie are brimming with adventure and magic (not to mention some subtly placed lessons on history and geography). With a life like Osborne's, it's only natural that she would be capable of bringing such wondrous stories to life.

Osborne was brought up in a military family, and her parents' work led to a lifestyle marked by constant change. "By the time I was 15," she says on, "I had lived in Oklahoma, Austria, Florida, and four different army posts in Virginia and North Carolina." While many kids would probably feel disoriented by such constant change, Osborne wouldn't have had it any other way. "Moving was never traumatic for me, but staying in one place was. When my dad finally retired to a small town in North Carolina, I nearly went crazy with boredom. I craved the adventure and changing scenery of our military life."

And adventure is exactly what Osborne got! After college, she embarked on a series of daring treks across the globe that would surely give Jack and Annie a run for their money. "For a while I camped in a cave on the island of Crete," she said. "Then I joined up with a small band of European young people heading to 'The East.' We traveled through 11 Asian countries and nearly lost our lives, first in an earthquake in northern Afghanistan and then in a riot in Kabul."

Following an illness she contracted in Katmandu, Osborne returned home to the U.S. trying her hand at a vast variety of jobs: window dresser, medical assistant, Russian travel consultant, waitress, bartender, and an assistant editor at a children's magazine. Although Osborne had unconsciously moved closer toward her ultimate career, she says that her first attempts at writing seemed to come without warning. "One day, out of the blue, I began writing a story about an 11-year-old girl in the South," she recalls. "The girl was a lot like me, and many of the incidents in the story were similar to happenings in my became a young adult novel called Run, Run Fast as You Can. Finally, I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up."

She sure did! Since then, Osborne has penned a slew of stories, including picture books, chapter books, middle-grade biographies, and young adult novels; but she is indisputably best known for her wonderful Magic Tree House books, a happy hodge-podge of history and mystery with a time travel theme kids find irresistible. No doubt inspired by Osborne's own highly adventurous life, these exiting expeditions have attracted droves of children and pleased educators by combining compulsively readable storytelling with useful facts about geography and history.

As was written of the series in Children's Literature, "Mary Pope Osborne provides nicely paced excitement for young readers, and there's just enough information mixed in so that children will take away some historical fact along with a sense of accomplishment at having completed a chapter book." As much as Osborne has certainly pleased her readers (not to mention their parents and teachers), perhaps no one is quite as pleased as she. "I'm one of those very lucky people who absolutely loves what they do for a living," she explained. "There is no career better suited to my eccentricities, strengths, and passions than that of a children's book author."

Good To Know

A few fascinating outtakes from our interview with Osborne:

"One of the most defining experiences of my life was traveling overland in an old van through the Middle East and Asia in the early 1970's. One day, when a small group of us were camped in a remote part of northern Afghanistan, we saw a woman riding horseback over the sloping plain. Her long brown hair floated on the wind and she wore a bright gypsy-style dress. When she got closer, I realized she was one of my roommates from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill! Though I didn't even know she'd left the U.S.—and she didn't know I was in Afghanistan, we weren't that surprised to come upon each other. That says a lot about the times we were living in then."

"After 26 years of living in New York City, my husband Will and I now spend most of our time in Northwestern Connecticut, living in a house that overlooks a lake. We kayak and hike with our two Norfolk terriers, Joey and Mr. Bezo. Will's learning Italian, and I've been working with a tutor for two years trying to understand Dante's Divine Comedy. One of my biggest hobbies is reading philosophy and theology. We spend lots of time, of course, on our work. After writing three shows for the Morehead Planetarium in North Carolina, Will's writing a musical based on the Magic Tree House series. I'm writing book # 38 in the series. I also spend a lot of time with my sister Natalie Pope Boyce who works on the Magic Tree House Research Guides. Natalie and our nephews and some of our best friends live nearby in the Berkshires Hills of Massachusetts, so we're up there a lot, too. My only complaint is there is not enough time to do all I want to do. For instance, I'd love to take drawing classes and I'd love to paint the lake we're living on. And I'd love to bird watch and become a better cook and learn about classical music. Maybe sometime in the future...."

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    1. Hometown:
      Goshen, Connecticut
    1. Date of Birth:
      May 20, 1949
    2. Place of Birth:
      Fort Sill, Oklahoma
    1. Education:
      B.A., University of North Carolina
    2. Website:

Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2010

    American Tall Tales--Audio CDs

    Although I was hesitatnt about spending the money on these audio CDs, I am so thankful that I did! I am a student teacher, and I was teaching the class about imaginative literature, particularly legends/tall tales. I bought the American Tall Tales book by Mary Pope Osborne as well as these CDs. The CDs were the perfect accompaniement to the lesson. The students were completely engrossed in the stories, and it was a great alternative to simply me reading it aloud. It really brought the story alive, with expression and all of its descriptive words.

    I think this is a perfect gift for an elementary teacher (I am in a 4th grade class) and a great way to bring American legends/tall tales to life for kids.

    I was VERY pleased with this purchase!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 14, 2013



    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 14, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Cub Scouts Fav!

    Goes into more detail for our Cub Scout Bears. Very enjoyable, but the level may be hard for some to read without help.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2011

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