Lies and Other Tall Tales

Overview

These tales are so tall they touch the sky! From Caldecott Honor and Coretta Scott King Honor artist Christopher Myers and Zora Neale Hurston.

While traveling in the Gulf States in the 1930s, Zora Neale Hurston collected and recorded some real whoppers told by folks from all walks of life. Not "dog ate my homework" kind of lies, but tales so wild you didn't ever want to hear the truth. And now today's picture book readers can enjoy these far-fetched fibs with Christopher Myers's...

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Overview

These tales are so tall they touch the sky! From Caldecott Honor and Coretta Scott King Honor artist Christopher Myers and Zora Neale Hurston.

While traveling in the Gulf States in the 1930s, Zora Neale Hurston collected and recorded some real whoppers told by folks from all walks of life. Not "dog ate my homework" kind of lies, but tales so wild you didn't ever want to hear the truth. And now today's picture book readers can enjoy these far-fetched fibs with Christopher Myers's spirited adaption and bold, expressive collages.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This collection of interlinking tall tales reads like a lively, bantering conversation. Collected by Zora Neale Hurston as she traveled through the Gulf States "back in the day," and retold and imaginatively illustrated by Myers takes on powerful resonance in light of recent events. The colorful, hyperbolic tone that carries through the collection begins with Myers's introduction: "Zora Neale Hurston, who was studying anthropology/ With a bunch of educational-type liars at Columbia University,/ Came down south to talk to the professional liars she growed up with." Text appears in boldly colored, grainy typeset with some words highlighted for proper emphasis, opposite full-bleed or framed collage illustrations quilted from paper and fabric scraps. The opening spread depicts a man's head emerging from wavy blue paper swirls set against three earth-toned bands of cloth: "Once I seen a man so ugly, they threw him in Dog River and they could skim ugly for six months." The next page carries through the earth tones and horizontal lines, but adds touches of green and dancing monkeys: "You think he was ugly? I seen a man so ugly he can go behind a jimson weed and hatch monkeys." The tales segue seamlessly, some building upon the preceding tale, others structured as a call-and-response, but all imbued with details and phrases from the South. Myers's arrangement of text and his bold, compelling artwork exuberantly portray the tales' human subjects in outlandish predicaments. The humor gleaned from these "professional liars" carries through the decades, offering a window into traditional African-American storytelling. Ages 6-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
"Signifying," or the good humored exchanges of extravagant boasts and insults, is a great African-American folk tradition. As is true for many such forms, the transmission of the art form was largely oral and informal. Back in the day, only a few anthropologists such as Zora Neale Hurston understood the importance of documenting the rich use of language that used humor to give voice to the frustrations and indignities of living as a person of color in the American South. Now Christopher Myers has used Hurston's documentation and added his own bold and sassy cloth and paper collages. Myers, like Hurston, keeps the colloquialisms of the original speakers. And the book has the natural progression typical of signifying—the first page begins "Once I seen a man so ugly, they threw him in Dog River and they could skim ugly for six months." A speaker on the next page tries to top that tale and someone else retorts with another exaggeration of another quality. The funky typeface Myers uses defies conventions as it varies in size and color. Like the illustrations, it does a wonderful job of recreating the tone of voice in which these mini tall tales must have been told. In an introduction and final artist's note, Myers offers an eloquent but lively appreciation of Zora Neale Hurston. All in all, this is a book that will appeal to every age. 2005, HarperCollins, Ages 6 up.
—Mary Hynes-Berry
School Library Journal
Gr 3 Up-Myers joins the growing list of writers and illustrators who are mining the southern folklore collected by Hurston in the 1930s. His jocular introduction avers that, "Way, way back in the day,/Back when George Washington's hair on the one-dollar bill hadn't yet turned white./Back when computers ran on steam power,/Back when cellular phones had rotary dials,-/There were lies,/Real lies-." The lies are set here in a bantering, conversational scheme as tellers try to top one another in traditional exchanges. ("If you haven't heard about it, you better ask your mama!") "That reminds me of this one man. He was so mean, he greased another man and swallowed him whole." Myers captures the spoken rhythm, often incorporating the original Black English and placing some words in print of a contrasting color for emphasis. Most episodes fit on a single page and face a spare, bold collage scene. Some scenes use the entire page, while others are set on hemmed fabric pieces to resemble small quilts on the page. Myers uses a judicious eye and ear, conveying the silly nuances without overwhelming them. The collection of small bits may need introducing to many children, but the silly claims evoke chuckles and could certainly spark further telling among listeners-just as they did originally. The economical views could inspire viewers to create their own story interpretations in art, and both the story scheme and origins will serve well where folk material is covered in the curriculum.-Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
"Once I seen / a man so ugly, / they threw him / in Dog River / and they could skim ugly / for six months. / You think he was ugly? / I seen a man/ so ugly, / he can go behind / a jimson weed / and hatch / monkeys." In the 1930s, Hurston gathered tall tales and inventive insults suitable for "playing the dozens" from the African-American community in the Gulf States. Here, Caldecott Honor-artist Christopher Myers adapts selections from her collection-funny, rhythmic, conversational and deliciously ungrammatical-to celebrate the essential art of storytelling. (He says he found them in a government office, "Which is where they are keeping all the lies nowadays / and that's the truth.") Crisp, graphically bold collages of scraps of fabric and paper in a saturated, mostly autumnal color palette sometimes literally, sometimes more imaginatively, interpret these colorful tall tales. Varied type styles, textures, sizes and arrangements reflect the chorus of voices echoed here, in the vibrant, ever-changing language the artist likes to hear on street corners, hair salons and "the right kind of eating establishments." (artist's note) (Picture book. 6-10)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060006556
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/11/2005
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 833,794
  • Age range: 6 - 10 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.00 (w) x 10.75 (h) x 0.25 (d)

Meet the Author

Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston, the author of Their Eyes Were Watching God, was deemed "one of the greatest writers of our time" by Toni Morrison. With the publication of Lies and Other Tall Tales, The Skull Talks Back, and What's the Hurry, Fox? new generations will be introduced to Hurston's legacy. She was born in Notasulga, Alabama, in 1891, and died in 1960.

Christopher Myers is a graduate of Brown University and the Whitney Museum of Art Independent Studio Program. He is the acclaimed illustrator of Love: Selected Poems by e.e. cummings; Harlem: A Poem, a Caldecott Honor Book; Jazz, a Coretta Scott King Honor Book; Blues Journey, a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book. He is also the author-illustrator of Black Cat and H.O.R.S.E.: A Game of Basketball and Imagination, both Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Books; We Are America: A Tribute from the Heart; A Time to Love: Stories from the Old Testament; Looking Like Me; Wings; and Fly!

Joyce Carol Thomas is an internationally renowned author who received the National Book Award for her first novel, Marked By Fire, and a Coretta Scott King Honor for The Blacker the Berry and for her first picture book, Brown Honey in Broomwheat Tea. Her picture book I Have Heard of a Land received a Coretta Scott King Honor and an IRA/CBC Teachers' Choice Award and was an ALA Notable Book. Her other titles include The Gospel Cinderella, Crowning Glory, Gingerbread Days, and A Gathering of Flowers. Ms. Thomas lives in Berkeley, California.

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    1. Date of Birth:
      January 7, 1891
    2. Place of Birth:
      Eatonville, Florida
    1. Date of Death:
      January 28, 1960
    2. Place of Death:
      Fort Pierce, Florida
    1. Education:
      B.A., Barnard College, 1928 (the school's first black graduate). Went on to study anthropology at Columbia University.

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