Reviews for Lies and Other Tall Tales

Booklist Reviews 2005 September #2
/*Starred Review*/ PreS-Gr. 2. "A lie so good you didn't even want to know the truth." Myers has adapted and illustrated some of the wild, very short, wicked stories collected by the Harlem Renaissance folklorist, anthropologist, and writer Zora Neale Hurston. He cites her sources as she quoted them, ordinary folk, such as "Floyd Thomas, age 23, phosphate miner, born in Florida." True to the spirit of the tall-tale oral tradition, Myers' quiltlike pictures in paper and fabric collage are minimalist and exaggerated, magical and mundane. Everyone will have a favorite story or image; perhaps it will be the one in which the narrator "seen wind so hard / till it blowed a man's nose off his face and / onto the back of his neck, . . . every time he sneeze / he blow his hat off." True to the irreverence of Hurston herself, Myers says he found the stories in a government office, "which is where they are keeping all the lies nowadays." Perfect for sharing with many age groups, this picture book will be a winner at family and cultural celebrations. ((Reviewed September 15, 2005)) Copyright 2005 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2005 #5
Following in the footsteps of Alice Walker in reviving the works of Zora Neale Hurston, Christopher Myers illustrates some of her best collected "lies." For those unfamiliar with Hurston's work, an introduction explains that she found these tall tales while "studying anthropology with a bunch of educational-type liars at Columbia University." Throughout the book, the speakers "signify on" one another as one liar attempts to best the previous one: "Well, I didn't know any man that big. But I seen a man so short he had to get up on a box to look over a grain of sand." Myers retains the language of the original speakers (sources are listed on the copyright page), and both the style and the content of the tall tales, as well as the expressive found-material illustrations, invite readers into a community of black speakers who paint their stories on a larger-than-life canvas. Some of these hyperbolic fabrications are quite funny: "I seen a man so black till lightning bugs followed him at twelve o'clock in the day -- thinking it's night." Teachers who want students to write their own tall tales will find this book a fine springboard. Copyright 2005 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2005 September #1
"Once I seen / a man so ugly, / they threw him / in Dog River / and they could skim ugly / for six months. / You think he was ugly? / I seen a man/ so ugly, / he can go behind / a jimson weed / and hatch / monkeys." In the 1930s, Hurston gathered tall tales and inventive insults suitable for "playing the dozens" from the African-American community in the Gulf States. Here, Caldecott Honor-artist Christopher Myers adapts selections from her collection-funny, rhythmic, conversational and deliciously ungrammatical-to celebrate the essential art of storytelling. (He says he found them in a government office, "Which is where they are keeping all the lies nowadays / and that's the truth.") Crisp, graphically bold collages of scraps of fabric and paper in a saturated, mostly autumnal color palette sometimes literally, sometimes more imaginatively, interpret these colorful tall tales. Varied type styles, textures, sizes and arrangements reflect the chorus of voices echoed here, in the vibrant, ever-changing language the artist likes to hear on street corners, hair salons and "the right kind of eating establishments." (artist's note) (Picture book. 6-10) Copyright Kirkus 2005 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2005 September #3

This collection of interlinking tall tales reads like a lively, bantering conversation. Collected by Zora Neale Hurston as she traveled through the Gulf States "back in the day," and retold and imaginatively illustrated by Myers takes on powerful resonance in light of recent events. The colorful, hyperbolic tone that carries through the collection begins with Myers's introduction: "Zora Neale Hurston, who was studying anthropology/ With a bunch of educational-type liars at Columbia University,/ Came down south to talk to the professional liars she growed up with." Text appears in boldly colored, grainy typeset with some words highlighted for proper emphasis, opposite full-bleed or framed collage illustrations quilted from paper and fabric scraps. The opening spread depicts a man's head emerging from wavy blue paper swirls set against three earth-toned bands of cloth: "Once I seen a man so ugly , they threw him in Dog River and they could skim ugly for six months." The next page carries through the earth tones and horizontal lines, but adds touches of green and dancing monkeys: "You think he was ugly? I seen a man so ugly he can go behind a jimson weed and hatch monkeys ." The tales segue seamlessly, some building upon the preceding tale, others structured as a call-and-response, but all imbued with details and phrases from the South. Myers's arrangement of text and his bold, compelling artwork exuberantly portray the tales' human subjects in outlandish predicaments. The humor gleaned from these "professional liars" carries through the decades, offering a window into traditional African-American storytelling. Ages 6-up. (Oct.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2005 November

Gr 3 Up -Myers joins the growing list of writers and illustrators who are mining the southern folklore collected by Hurston in the 1930s. His jocular introduction avers that, "Way, way back in the day,/Back when George Washington's hair on the one-dollar bill hadn't yet turned white./Back when computers ran on steam power,/Back when cellular phones had rotary dials,…/There were lies,/Real lies…." The lies are set here in a bantering, conversational scheme as tellers try to top one another in traditional exchanges. ("If you haven't heard about it, you better ask your mama!") "That reminds me of this one man. He was so mean, he greased another man and swallowed him whole." Myers captures the spoken rhythm, often incorporating the original Black English and placing some words in print of a contrasting color for emphasis. Most episodes fit on a single page and face a spare, bold collage scene. Some scenes use the entire page, while others are set on hemmed fabric pieces to resemble small quilts on the page. Myers uses a judicious eye and ear, conveying the silly nuances without overwhelming them. The collection of small bits may need introducing to many children, but the silly claims evoke chuckles and could certainly spark further telling among listeners-just as they did originally. The economical views could inspire viewers to create their own story interpretations in art, and both the story scheme and origins will serve well where folk material is covered in the curriculum.-Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston

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