cover image Big Men, Big Country: A Collection of American Tall Tales

Big Men, Big Country: A Collection of American Tall Tales

Paul Robert Walker. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P, $18 (79pp) ISBN 978-0-15-207136-3

The rip-roarin' Davy Crockett and Pecos Bill team up with less widely known frontiersmen in this celebration of the outlandish exploits of nine American folk heroes from history and fable. Adopting the cheery informality of the oral tradition that gave rise to the genre, Walker ( Bigfoot and Other Legendary Creatures ) gives full reign to the tall tale's exaggerated qualities and regional colloquialisms. But the cumulative effect of such folksiness is monotonousness. Similarly, an author's note preceding the collection serves up simplistic generalizations that seem more patronizing than humorous (``In those days most folks believed that a woman's place was beside her husband. Of course today we know it's the other way around'' explains the lack of female adventurers). Short notes follow each story, detailing the historical and cultural context of the hero and the tale. Bernardin's gouache and pencil illustrations, stylistically reminiscent of Barry Moser's work, all feature a larger-than-life he-man ready to swagger off the page. Ages 8-up. (Apr.)