cover image Paul Bunyan: The Invention of an American Legend

Paul Bunyan: The Invention of an American Legend

Noah Van Sciver and Marlena Myles. Toon, $17.99 (48p) ISBN 978-1-6626-6522-6; $11.99 paper ISBN 978-1-6626-6523-3

Van Sciver (As a Cartoonist, for adults) and Spirit Lake Dakota/Mohegan/Muscogee member Myles (Thanku) dismantle the Paul Bunyan legend by forefronting the Indigenous foundations and sensationalist propaganda upon which the tale was founded in this enlightening graphic novel. Soft washes of watercolor, marker, and heavy ink render the tale over a single winter day in 1914 Minnesota when, during an unexpected train delay, a pale-skinned lumber advertising executive regales fellow travelers with a swiftly spun yarn of Paul Bunyan. The creators recall the story as it is most widely known, detailing how a giant lumberjack and his equally enormous blue pet ox became “a hero to all the other lumbermen.” But rather than applause, the telling is met with audience derision: “Look at it now! Our land laid bare! And his PAUL BUNYAN is responsible for this!” Van Sciver and Myles present a frank and accessible depiction of the environmental and economic impact of boom-bust industries such as clear-cutting logging, particularly on Indigenous peoples, that formed the underpinnings of early American expansion westward, and how the Bunyan fiction perpetuated these systems. Essays by Pueblo of Laguna member Lee Francis and Deondre Smiles, of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, feature throughout, providing contextual and historical information for the brief tale. Ages 7–up. (Aug.)