When Birds Could Talk and Bats Could Sing: The Adventures of Bruh Sparrow, Sis Wren and Their Friends

When Birds Could Talk and Bats Could Sing: The Adventures of Bruh Sparrow, Sis Wren and Their Friends

by Virginia Hamilton, Barry Moser
     
 
The wonderful stories in this book are based on African American folktales told in the South during the plantation era. In the 1880s, journalist Martha Young collected these stories and created many of her own, publishing them in newspapers and then in several books of folktales. Full color.

Overview

The wonderful stories in this book are based on African American folktales told in the South during the plantation era. In the 1880s, journalist Martha Young collected these stories and created many of her own, publishing them in newspapers and then in several books of folktales. Full color.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Cahners\\Publishers_Weekly
With impressive aplomb, Hamilton follows the ambitious Her Stories with eight animal tales, reworked from 19th-century originals recorded by a slave owner's daughter. The stories are told in the cante fable tradition, with plenty of rhyming and singing, and an apparently artless ease ('Well, Miss Mockingbird reeled the song off as pretty as you please'). They must be read aloud. And they will be-the foibles, squabblings and occasional good deeds of Miss Bat, Bruh Buzzard and Sis Wren are our own. The self-deceived Miss Bat's two stories epitomize the book. She shakes loose all her beautiful feathers, then casts away all her songs, so that she will not be like any bird... and soon she most certainly is not. The reader will laugh, ruefully, at her pride, recognizing the moral ('For pride has a way of taking a fall every time') long before it appears as the satisfying conclusion. A wonderful complement to the front-porch voice of the stories, Moser's bright watercolors vibrate with dozens of birds confronting the reader in their best hats and bonnets, their faces alive with contentment, irritation or panic. These vaguely Disneyesque characters strut through formal full-page compositions and flutter, flounce and perch among the lines of type. It's unusually warm and down-to-earth work for Moser, some of his best, and helps to make this book, if not the most serious of Hamilton's collections, one of her most enjoyable and accessible.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
With impressive aplomb, Hamilton follows the ambitious Her Stories with eight animal tales, reworked from 19th-century originals recorded by a slave owner's daughter. The stories are told in the cante fable tradition, with plenty of rhyming and singing, and an apparently artless ease ("Well, Miss Mockingbird reeled the song off as pretty as you please"). They must be read aloud. And they will be-the foibles, squabblings and occasional good deeds of Miss Bat, Bruh Buzzard and Sis Wren are our own. The self-deceived Miss Bat's two stories epitomize the book. She shakes loose all her beautiful feathers, then casts away all her songs, so that she will not be like any bird... and soon she most certainly is not. The reader will laugh, ruefully, at her pride, recognizing the moral ("For pride has a way of taking a fall every time") long before it appears as the satisfying conclusion. A wonderful complement to the front-porch voice of the stories, Moser's bright watercolors vibrate with dozens of birds confronting the reader in their best hats and bonnets, their faces alive with contentment, irritation or panic. These vaguely Disneyesque characters strut through formal full-page compositions and flutter, flounce and perch among the lines of type. It's unusually warm and down-to-earth work for Moser, some of his best, and helps to make this book, if not the most serious of Hamilton's collections, one of her most enjoyable and accessible. All ages. (Mar.)
School Library Journal
Gr 2-5-Hamilton's hilarious and accessible retellings of eight bird and bat stories based on African American folktales are a joy to read. They are kin to the Bruh/Brer Rabbit stories, and were originally assembled by a Southern journalist, Martha Young, in the 1880s. Hamilton takes care to document and explain her sources. Some of these selections were collected from folklore and others Young herself created; together they form a cohesive, delightful whole. Moser has glowingly illustrated all manner of creatures in his illustrious career, but the flighty feathered ones he creates here are among his best. He skillfully and with great glee defines a cast of hat-wearing wrens, jays, buzzards, and even a self-obsessed, singing bat with a serious attitude problem. There is also one painting that looks suspiciously like Moser himself-in comically gruesome disguise, of course. The dynamic duo that created In the Beginning (Harcourt, 1988) has succeeded again with this lively collection.-Jennifer Fleming, Boston Public Library
Janice del Negro
Hamilton's eight lively retellings of tales from the American South feature feuding birds, foolish bats, and hummingbirds with attitudes. In one story, Blue Jay and Swallow bring fire to humankind; in another, Hummingbird loses her voice in a battle with the wind. Each tale is written in the style of a "cante fable" (a story that includes a song or verse and ends with a moral). The moral, printed in italics, enhances and reflects the oral nature of the stories, which Hamilton roots in the work of Martha Young, a nineteenth-century Alabama folklorist who collected black folktales and songs and wrote original stories in the African American tradition. Dialect has been eliminated, with the stories retold in an easygoing style that gracefully lends itself to reading and telling aloud. The layout is exceptionally appealing and effective--from the full-and double-page-spread watercolors and generous use of white space to the enlarged typeface and extra leading. Moser's finely detailed watercolors have an inherent humor that makes the characters especially vivid, and the jacket illustration is a wonderful, slyly funny collection of bird personalities. The text, the layout, and the illustrations work together seamlessly in this beautifully designed, well-crafted collection.
Kirkus Reviews
Joel Chandler Harris wasn't the only collector of African- American trickster tales; here are eight fables gathered (and some, perhaps, written) by Martha Young, his contemporary. Most of the lessons are pointed: Boasting that she can touch the sky, Brown Wren flies too high and has to be saved by larger birds; the "Still and Ugly Bat" was once beautiful but became so proud that she threw away her feathers and songs; Bruh Buzzard doesn't wait quite long enough for Fair Maid the horse to die and gets a lick in the head that leaves him bald ever after. In several stories, birds help human or animal friends; when young Alcee Lingo gets the chills, Blue Jay and Swallow steal fire from old Firekeeper, and Cardinal gets his brilliant color by wiping blood from a hunter's near-miss off Bruh Deer.

Hamilton (Her Stories, 1995, etc.) recasts the thick dialect of the originals into fluent, musical prose that demands to be read aloud, and to which Moser's exact, energetic paintings of brightly colored birds—all sporting bonnets or top hats and very human expressions—make perfect accompaniment. First published in local newspapers and not available in book form since the 1970s, these wry, comic, tender tales should at last find the wide audience they deserve.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780590473729
Publisher:
Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date:
03/01/1996
Pages:
72
Product dimensions:
8.10(w) x 12.48(h) x 0.46(d)
Lexile:
620L (what's this?)
Age Range:
6 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

BARRY MOSER is the prize-winning illustrator of many beautiful books for children and adults, including Harcourt's Telling Time with Big Mama Cat and Sit, Truman!, both co-illustrated by his daughter Cara Moser and written by Dan Harper. He has won the American Book Award and earned accolades from the American Library Association and the American Institute of Graphic Arts. Mr. Moser lives in western Massachusetts. TONY JOHNSTON's numerous books for children include It's About Dogs, illustrated by Ted Rand, Very Scary, illustrated by Douglas Florian, and The Day of the Dead, illustrated by Jeanette Winter. She lives with her family in California.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
March 12, 1936
Date of Death:
February 19, 2002
Place of Birth:
Yellow Springs, Ohio
Place of Death:
Yellow Springs, Ohio
Education:
Attended Antioch College, Ohio State University, and the New School for Social Research
Website:
http://www.virginiahamilton.com/

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