Swamp Angel

Swamp Angel

4.0 2
by Anne Isaacs, Paul O. Zelinsky

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Caldecott artist Zelinsky puts oils to cherry and maple for this tall-tale competition between a Tennessee woodswoman extraordinaire and a hungry, fearsome bear. This debut of a promising new storyteller adds to the tall-tale tradition a pictorial counterpart that will entertain and endure for a long time to come. Full color.


Caldecott artist Zelinsky puts oils to cherry and maple for this tall-tale competition between a Tennessee woodswoman extraordinaire and a hungry, fearsome bear. This debut of a promising new storyteller adds to the tall-tale tradition a pictorial counterpart that will entertain and endure for a long time to come. Full color.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Zelinsky's (Rumpelstiltskin) stunning American-primitive oil paintings, set against an unusual background of cherry, maple and birch veneers, frankly steal the show here. Their success, however, does not diminish the accomplishment of Isaacs, whose feisty tall tale marks an impressive picture-book debut. Her energy-charged narrative introduces Angelica Longrider. ``On August 1, 1815,'' Isaacs begins, ``when [she] took her first gulp of air on this earth, there was nothing about the baby to suggest that she would become the greatest woodswoman in Tennessee. The newborn was scarcely taller than her mother and couldn't climb a tree without help.... She was a full two years old before she built her first log cabin.'' The story continues in this casually overstated vein, explaining how Angelica got the appellation Swamp Angel at the age of 12 after rescuing a wagon train mired in the mud. But the larger-than-life girl's reputation grows to truly gargantuan proportions when she bests an even larger bear, throwing him up in the sky, where "he crashed into a pile of stars, making a lasting impression. You can still see him there, any clear night." This valiant heroine is certain to leave youngsters chuckling-and perhaps even keeping a close watch on the night sky. Ages 5-9. (Oct.)
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-Newborn Angelica Longrider, ``scarcely taller than her mother,'' was a ``full two years old before she built her first log cabin.'' Thus begins Isaacs's original tall tale, and she captures the cadence of the genre perfectly with its unique blend of understatement, exaggeration, and alliteration. Set in Tennessee, it is the story of a resourceful young woman who rescued wagon trains ``mired in Dejection Swamp.'' Now she has set her sights on saving settlers from an enormous black bear named Thundering Tarnation and beating the lineup of male competitors in the process. Zelinsky paints his primitive views of Americana with oil on veneer, a choice that gives each page a grainy border, well suited to this backwoods tale. A master of composition, he varies readers' perspectives by framing the portrait of the newborn and, later, the series of male hunters with small ovals. He uses double-page lunettes to depict the massive bear and woman sprawled across the pages, and places the menacing beast lunging over the frame in another memorable scene. The pictures and words cavort across the page in perfect synchronization, revealing the heroine's feisty solution. Buy for a great guffaw in small groups or one-on-one. It's an American classic in the making.-Wendy Lukehart, Dauphin County Library, Harrisburg, PA
Hazel Rochman
Forget those images of angelic maidens, ethereal and demure. Angelica Longrider is the greatest woodswoman in Tennessee. She can lasso a tornado. She can toss a bear into the sky so hard that it is still on the way up at nightfall. She snores like a locomotive in a thunderstorm. Isaacs tells her original story with the glorious exaggeration and uproarious farce of the traditional tall tale and with its typical laconic idiom--you just can't help reading it aloud. The heroine was nothing special as a newborn baby ("scarcely taller than her mother and couldn't climb a tree without help . . . She was a full two years old before she built her first log cabin"). Zelinsky's detailed oil paintings in folk-art style are exquisite, framed in cherry, maple, and birch wood grains. They are also hilarious, making brilliant use of perspective to extend the mischief and the droll understatement. Sweetfaced Angelica wears a straw bonnet and a homespun dress, but she's a stalwart savior who comes tramping out of the mist on huge bare feet to lift a wagon train from Dejection Swamp. She is bent over in many of the pictures as if too tall to fit in the elegant oval frames. Pair this picture book with Lester and Pinkney's "John Henry" for a gigantic tall-tale celebration.

Product Details

Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.06(w) x 9.02(h) x 0.13(d)
AD1020L (what's this?)
Age Range:
5 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Also the author of Caldecott Honor Book Swamp Angel, Anne Isaacs was born and raised in Buffalo, New York.She feels most at home in rural environments such as the redwood forest near Santa Cruz, California where she lives with her family. Her husband and three children have built their own treehouse, which they share with several squirrels and blue jays. "All my life," says Anne Isaacs, "poetry has affected me more than any other genre. I have read and memorized it, studied it, loved, and written it since I was nine."Ms. Isaacs lives in Santa Cruz, California with her family.
"It's a little surprising to me, when I think back over my childhood in suburban Chicago, and recall the things I liked and the things I did, that I never considered the possibility of becoming a book illustrator. During my elementary school years I was always collaborating with classmates to create imaginary worlds and the stories to take place in them and putting it all down in pictures.

"In the third grade I drew bestiaries of ridiculous animals, their habits and habitats; in fifth grade my best friend and I, working through the mail, developed an island world of two competing countries. I think they were called Igglebeania and Squigglebeania (I know we never did agree about the spelling), and they teemed with colorful characters and important incidents. They now, like Atlantis, are lost to the world. At fourteen we wrote a novel about a monkey astronaut who saves the world from encroaching gorillas. Of course I made the pictures, and my friend's father took it on himself to send our opus out to real publishers for their consideration. It was with no small shock that several years ago, as I was leafing through my friend's scrapbook, I lit on a polite rejection letter from a publisher who was now a friend and with whom I had just published two books!

"The earliest books that were important to me were, as far as I was concerned, not written or illustrated by anybody -- they just appeared in the library or in my room. The Color Kittens and The Tawny Scrawny Lion and many others that I can and can't remember filled my young childhood. It's the pictures that I remember, for the most part.

"Some years later I had book heroes: William Pene du Bois and Robert Lawson were the most lasting. I especially loved The Twenty-One Balloons and The Fantastic Flight. It didn't occur to me that these writers were real people living in houses somewhere and doing real things.

"Then a few years ago when I was driving in Connecticut with some friends they happened to mention that Robert Lawson had lived nearby. Inside my head, I jumped. Robert Lawson lived in a real place? In this world? Not having thought about it since my childhood, it seems I still harbored the notion that the man was just a paragraph on a book jacket flap. Now I guess that I, too, am taking a place on the back flap of book jackets. What the children reading my books will make me out to be, if anything, I can't guess. But it really doesn't matter: it's not the authors they should remember, it's the books. (Or maybe, for the most part the pictures!)"

Known for his versatility, Mr. Zelinsky does not feel his work represents a specific style. "I want the pictures to speak in the same voice as the words. This desire has led me to try various kinds of drawings in different books. I have used quite a wide stretch of styles, and I'm fortunate to have been asked to illustrate such a range of stories."

Paul Zelinsky was born in Evanston, Illinois. He attended Yale University, where he took a course with Maurice Sendak, which later inspired him to pursue a career in children's books. Afterwards he received a graduate degree in painting from Tyler School of Art, in Philadelphia and Rome. Paul Zelinsky lives in New York with his wife, Deborah, and the younger of their two daughters.

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Swamp Angel 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Christina-Burns87 More than 1 year ago
In the story of Swamp Angel, Angelica Longrider (aka Swamp Angel) is a town and state hero. From saving homes from burning down to picking up wagons trapped in the swamp marsh. One day a local bear begins stealing food rations from the settlers right before a long winter in Tennessee. This was no ordinary bear, he is fast, huge, has so much fur on his body that bullets never make it to his skin; he is giving the nickname Thundering Taranation. Well the settlers grow tired of this pest so they set up a contest to hunt down the bear. The hunt begins, Swamp Angel is the only hunter left and tangles with Thundering Taranation. To find out what happens next read this book. I enjoyed this book, the dialog in this book definitely brings the characters to life. This book is an easy read and children of all ages will enjoy this book. The illustrations bring more to the story of Angelica Longrider.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Caldecott, A truly enjoyable folktale. Angelica Longrider is known to the settlers of Tennessee as 'Swamp Angel'. She is a giant girl-turned-woman who helps settlers in need. A giant bear is eating all of the settlers' food and they cannot stop him. Swamp Angel grabs the bear and throws him into the sky, where his imprint can still be seen today as a constellation. I love folktales of this nature. Anne Isaac was born in 1949, in Buffalo, New York. She now lives in the San Francisco Bay area. Bibliography Isaacs, Anne. Swamp Angel. New York: Dutton Children¿s Book, 1994.