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Six Fools

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Who's the biggest fool?
The silly girl?
The silly man?
The silly woman?
The silly farmer?

In this outrageously funny tale, our hero finds foolish folks aplenty and true love.

During her travels in the Gulf States in the 1930s, Zora Neale Hurston recorded stories told by the people she met, to preserve ...

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Who's the biggest fool?
The silly girl?
The silly man?
The silly woman?
The silly farmer?

In this outrageously funny tale, our hero finds foolish folks aplenty and true love.

During her travels in the Gulf States in the 1930s, Zora Neale Hurston recorded stories told by the people she met, to preserve their rich oral legacy. the six fools is one of the stories collected in every tongue got to confess, her third volume of folklore. It has been masterfully adapted for children by National Book Award winner Joyce Carol Thomas. Renowned artist Ann Tanksley puts the six fools in a retro- 1930s setting in her brilliantly colored oil monoprints.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Though Zora Neale Hurston's collection of southern folklore (from which this tale comes) was originally published more than 75 years ago, Thomas's (Brown Honey in Broomwheat Tea) adaptation here keeps the humor fresh and lively. Newcomer Tanksley's inspired illustrations, meanwhile, evoke the story's time period and culture. The narrative opens as "a dashing young man" proposes to a young woman who, when fetching cider to celebrate, starts daydreaming about what she'd name her firstborn and completely forgets about her fiance. Her parents soon join her in her reverie. When the young man finds them sitting in a pool of flowing cider he declares: "I'm going traveling for a year, and if I find three fools as big as you, I'll come back and we'll get married." Tanksley uses fine ink lines to trace her wide-eyed characters in comical poses. Radiant pinks, purples and oranges fill the paintings with warmth, while geometric patterns, such as rows of circular cider kegs and square windows, provide a stabilizing counterbalance to such whimsical images as a man trying to pull his cow onto the barn roof. Spot and panel illustrations vary the pacing, while both the fianc 's departure and return-after discovering three more fools ("Well, well, w-e-l-l... I might as well go back and get married")-warrant full-bleed spreads. A Caribbean expression, "By that time I left" signals the story's end. Tanksley's vibrant artwork ensures that this bighearted tall tale will find a well-deserved new audience. Ages 6-10. (Jan.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Gr 1-5-A fellow courts a girl, and they agree to marry. Sadly, she and her family are such fools that the young man takes off: "-you are the three biggest fools that I ever laid eyes on. I'm going traveling for a year, and if I find three fools as big as you, I'll come back and we'll get married." Does he find them? Of course. This adaptation of the "fool" story from Hurston's Every Tongue Got to Confess (HarperCollins, 2001) is light and adept. Though Thomas doesn't describe the changes she's made, comparison with the original shows that she's added a small amount of narrative detail and dialogue, hardly altering and not cutting anything from the original. The result is wonderful in voice: rich, hilarious, and satisfying. Tanksley's oil monoprints done in a folk-art style set the story in Hurston's 1920s-'30s with humor and vibrant color in a wide-ranging palette. The combination of single-page, three-fourths-page spread, and spot illustrations, with text varying black on white or white on color, gives a sense of visual movement to the story. Short notes at the end (including a source note and an explanation of the unusual but traditional ending phrase) complete this delightful picture book, perfect for reading aloud and for any folktale shelf. Pair it with Christopher Myers's Lies and Other Tall Tales (HarperCollins, 2005) for a Hurston Renaissance.-Nina Lindsay, Oakland Public Library, CA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Richly hued oil monoprints in a childlike style give this Caribbean-flavored variant on "The Three Sillies" a rural African-American setting. Collected by Hurston from a West Indian immigrant, the tale as originally published (in Every Tongue Got To Confess, 2001) features a barrel of beer in the basement; aside from changing that to cider and smoothing out some of the language, Thomas has left it as transcribed. The story is very close to European versions, except that it closes with a woman trying to haul sunshine into her kitchen in a wheelbarrow, followed by an unusual tagline from the storyteller: "By that time I left"-for which Tanksley supplies a closing view of the newlyweds departing on a cruise ship. Whatever its trappings, the tale remains one of the drollest folktales around, and even young readers already familiar with it will be heartily amused by this lively American rendition. (Picture book/folktale. 6-9)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060006464
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 12/27/2005
  • Pages: 40
  • Age range: 6 - 10 Years
  • Lexile: 900L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 11.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.25 (d)

Meet the Author

Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) was a novelist, folklorist, and anthropologist whose fictional and factual accounts of black heritage remain unparalleled. Her many books include Dust Tracks on a Road; Their Eyes Were Watching God; Jonah's Gourd Vine; Moses, Man of the Mountain; Mules and Men; and Every Tongue Got to Confess.


During the 1920s, African-American culture in the United States received an exhilarating shot in the arm in the era known as the Harlem Renaissance. For the first time, black American art, music, and literature was being taken seriously among the intelligentsia as a significant force in contemporary culture. At the front of that movement were several writers, including Zora Neale Hurston.

Hurston's work reflected the liberation and experimentation of post-war America. She published stories and co-founded the groundbreaking journal Fire! with poet Langston Hughes and novelist Wallace Thurman. By the ‘30s, Hurston was a bestselling writer, but with the Renaissance on the wane and a new era of politics, economic depression, and the "social realism" movement, Hurston's once glorious literary career was running into dire straits. She would end her life destitute, practically forgotten, buried in an unmarked grave in Florida. However, a resurgence of interest in her work during the 1970s and the tireless work of writer Alice Walker would help reestablish Hurston in her rightful place as one of America's greatest and most influential writers.

Born in Eatonville, Florida, in 1891 to a father who was a Baptist preacher, Hurston was well-versed from birth in the dynamics of the Southern black experience. She brought that keen vision to her writing and published her first story in the Howard University literary magazine while attending the school in 1921. Still, it was not until Hurston moved to New York City in 1925 that she really began to make waves on the literary scene. Her writing was characterized by its unflagging honesty and strength, qualities that Hurston herself exuded. She often ruffled feathers by refusing to adhere to the constricting gender conventions prevalent at the time. This strength and self-confidence was already apparent in the writer's very first works. Her debut novel Jonah's Gourde Vine was praised by The New York Times as "the most vital and original novel about the American Negro that has yet been written by a member of the Negro race." Her second was a bona fide classic, Mules and Men, a compendium of African American folk tales, songs, and maxims that drew on Hurston's extensive studies in Anthropology.

By the time Hurston published her signature work Their Eyes Were Watching God, the freestyle experimentalism of the Harlem Renaissance was being increasingly overcast by the Great Depression. As a result, a backlash ensued. Their Eyes Were Watching God, which told of a woman named Janie Crawford who goes through three marriages to separate men as she struggles to realize herself, was too steeped in the experimentalism of the Renaissance to please critics. Furthermore, her portrayal of a black woman's search for personal liberation was too much for many black men to stomach. Richard Wright, the acclaimed author of Native Son, even dismissed Their Eyes Were Watching God for not being "serious fiction." Today, such criticism may seem absurd, or at the very least, incredibly short-sighted, but at the time, Hurston's daring prose was not in vogue amongst the social realists.

Their Eyes Were Watching God, instead, displays a true structural adventurousness, splitting between the eloquence of the narrative voice and the idiomatic, ungrammatical dialogue of the black, southern characters. While works of the social realism movement were easily categorized by their left-wing politics and gritty delivery, Their Eyes Were Watching God was less simple to pigeonhole. It is at once a product of the Harlem Renaissance, an example of Southern literature along the lines of Faulkner, and a work of feminist literature. Consequently, the novel was criticized for being out of step with the times, and it went out of print very shortly after being published, leading to the collapse of Hurston's career and her standing as a significant literary figure.

Hurston would die in 1960, back in Florida, destitute, forgotten. Her books long unavailable, her death barely registered. She would not return to the public eye until 1975, when Alice Walker published an essay titled "In Search of Zora Neale Hurston" in Ms. magazine. Along with other writer including Robert Hemenway and Tony Cade Bambara, Walker went on a crusade to revitalize Hurston's career fifteen years after the writer's death.

When Their Eyes Were Watching God was finally republished, it was reevaluated as a classic. Today, the novel is required reading in universities all over the country, and Hurston is widely acknowledged as one of the first great African-American women writers. As a final tribute to her idol, Walker also traveled to Florida where Hurston is buried and placed a marker on her grave, a long-overdue tribute to a great American writer reading with beautiful simplicity: "Zora Neale Hurston: Genius of the South."

Good To Know

Hurston's earliest work was a comedic play called Mule Bone, which she co-wrote with Langston Hughes. However, the play would not be performed until 1991 due to an arduous legal battle that also brought an untimely end to the friendship between Hurston and Hughes.

Spike Lee's audacious debut film She's Gotta Have It has been viewed by some as a hip adaptation of Their Eyes Were Watching God, and the fact that the film opens with a quotation from Zora Neale Hurston may prove such theories correct.

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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.

Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2006

    The Six Fools

    The Six Fools is a story/folk tale collected by Zora Neal Hurston. This tale interweaves the surrealism of African Folklore and Hurston¿s abstract style for a story that is full of enchantment all the while set to the tone of a children¿s book. The story is creatively spun with Hurston¿s unique fashion and use of rich dialect. Encouraging the audience to be drawn in at the conflict of the story, which entails the protagonist confronting his future `family to be¿ with a challenge. He informs them that in order to marry their daughter, he must make a journey in order to find three additional ¿fools¿ as big as they. The tale continues and ends with magical word play and wonderful imagery. Ms. Thomas has skillfully adapted/translated this tale to a comprehensive yet comical story for children. The illustrations by Ms. Tanksley are vibrant, colorful miniature works of art that can tell a story without dialogue. Eleanor S. Shields, Black Butterfly Review

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