AppLit Bibliographies

Appalachian Folktale Picture Books: Tall Tales

Compiled by Tina L. Hanlon


Back to Folktale Bibliography Index and General Picture Book List

Notes:  Many titles below contain direct links to AppLit's Annotated Index of Appalachian Folktales, where more details on many of these books are found. However, some entries on the picture book pages are based on folk songs or tales not grouped with others in the Annotated Index. Tall tales in longer books are listed with folktale collections. The Annotated Index also contains references to tales and picture books that are variants from other regions of the same tales indexed in AppLit.

Many other Appalachian folktales, especially Jack Tales, are like tall tales when they contain exaggerated and humorous images and actions, or pourquoi tale plot elements—stories about the origins of things. See AppLit's Tall Tales and Jack Tales: Literature and Writing Activities. For examples (including audio files), student activities, and teaching materials on tall tales, see also Tall Tales web site (from Hortonville, WI schools) and Folk Heroes section of teaching unit West Virginia's Appalachian Music and Literature (formerly in West Virginia's World School web site, now reprinted in AppLit).

Carmer, Elizabeth and Carl. Tony Beaver, Griddle Skater. Illus. Mimi Korach. Champaign, IL: Garrard Publishing, 1965. "Tony Beaver, West Virginia woodsman and champion griddle skater of the Southern States, challenges his cousin Paul Bunyan to a griddle skating race" (WorldCat).

Ford, Ann. Davy Crockett. Illus. Leonard Vosburgh. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1961. "A see and read book." Recommended by NEA's Read Across America program, Sate-by-State Booklist.

Glass, Andrew. Bewildered for Three Days: As to Why Daniel Boone Never Wore His Coonskin Cap. New York: Holiday House, 2000. An original tall tale about Daniel Boone as a child, learning woodland skills from Delaware and Lenape friends. Far-fetched encounters with a bear and raccoons explain why he stopped wearing a coonskin cap. Framed by a fictional story about Boone as an adult telling this story to a painter. Detailed historical background given in Afterward. See also books by Tom Birdseye illustrated by Glass in general folktale picture book bibliography and tall tale by Schroeder, below. Glass (a New Yorker) has written and illustrated a number of books about tough legendary heroes from the West and South, as well as an adaptation of The Bremen Town Musicians.

Gould, Jane H. John Henry. Junior Graphic American Legend Series. New York: PowerKids Press, 2015. 24 pp. Graphic novel format. "Ms. Becker teaches her class about John Henry, who, legend says, competed against a steam drill in tunneling through a mountain while helping build a railroad across the United States."

Isaacs, Anne. Swamp Angel.  Illus. Paul O. Zelinsky. New York: Dutton, 1994. N. pag. Introduces a tall-tale heroine as awesome as Paul Bunyan or Pecos Bill. Paul O. Zelinsky's dramatic paintings, with backgrounds that appear to be wood panels, depict Swamp Angel's growth into "the greatest woodswoman in Tennessee" and her impact on the landscape when her long struggle with a bear stirs up enough dust to create the atmosphere of the Smoky Mountains. Awarded a 1995 Caldecott honor and a Phoenix award honor from the Children's Literature Association in 2014.

Jensen, Patsy. John Henry and His Mighty Hammer. Illus. Roseanne Litzinger. A Troll First-Start Tall Tale. Troll, 1994.

Justus, May. Eben and the Rattlesnake. Illus. Carol Wilde. Champaign, IL: Garrard Publishing, 1969. This 48-page picture book weaves the tall tale into a realistic story about Eben Holder and his farm family in No-End Hollow. In The Right House for Rowdy, an old man tells the same tall tale within a slightly longer realistic story about a pup that needs a doghouse. See bibliography Books by May Justus.

Keats, Ezra Jack. John Henry: An American Legend. New York: Dragon Fly Books, 1965. Teacher Resource File on Keats at JMU.

Kellogg, Steven. Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind Crockett. New York: Mulberry, 1995. One of Kellogg's many humorous, colorful tall tale retellings. In this version of her life, Sally Ann is born in the mountains of Kentucky, able to beat her brothers and others in various contests of strength and speed.  She has many adventures (based on 8 tales in Davy Crockett's almanacs, 1834-56):  she scares a bear out of its skin, "invents" bald eagles, marries Davy Crockett, causes a tornado of flying alligators, and flings tall tale hero Mike Fink 5 miles up the Mississippi River. See cover and description at Nancy Keane's Booktalks, brief review at, Teacher  Resource File on Steven Kellogg at JMU. Recommended by NEA's Read Across America program, Sate-by-State Booklist.

Lester, Julius. John Henry. Illus.  Jerry Pinkney. New York:  Dial, 1994. Awarded a 1995 Caldecott honor.

Miller, Bobbi. Davy Crockett Gets Hitched. Illus. Megan Lloyd. New York: Holiday House, 2009. Picture book. "An accidental encounter with a thorn bush on his way to the spring dance has Davy Crockett kicking up his heels and out-dancing even the audacious Miss Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind." She is described as "full of spit and vinegar," able to "run like a shooting star, jump rainbow high, and outwhistle the wind." The burr in Davy's britches cause him to dance and yodel so wildly that, as Sally Ann tries to compete with him, they knock things over and in the process, Davy eats garlic pickles, makes applesauce, mashes potatoes, and stirs all the food on the tablecloth into a stew. Finally they settle down to eat amicably and dance together all night. In the illustrations, some of the oil paintings look a little like American folk art landscapes.

Miller, Bobbi Ann. Miss Sally Ann and the Panther. Illus. Megan Lloyd. New York: Holiday House, 2012. "Miss Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind was a woman of wonder. She could rope a hurricane, outspin a steam mill, and blow out the moonlight in a single breath. Her finest adventure is wrestling Fireeyes, a mean-as-tarnation panther. Lickity-split they begin fighting. They raise such a racket that the moon dips onto its side and the Milky Way curdles. Neither one backs down, backs up, or backs out...until, finally, each wins the other's respect, and the two become great and glorious friends" (from author's web site, which shows several illustrations).

Quackenbush, Robert. Quit Pulling My Leg! A Story of Davy Crockett. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987. "A brief illustrated biography of the renowned American frontiersmen."

Schanzer, Rosalyn. Davy Crockett Saves the World. New York: HarperCollins, 2001. Based on the Davy Crockett almanacs published in the 19th century, claiming "every single word is true, unless it is false." Crockett is "the greatest woodsman who ever lived," who "could whip ten times his weight in wildcats and drink the Mississippi River dry." His bear Death Hug and girlfriend Sally Sugartree participate in his fantastic exploits. Among Crockett's impossible feats, he saves the world from Halley's Comet in response to an ad from the President. A pourquoi episode at the end explains why he wears his coonskin cap after taking on a comet. Carolyn Phelan (in Booklist) wrote,"the vivid language places the story squarely in the tradition of American tall tales, where exaggeration is not just allowed, it's celebrated."

Schroeder, Alan. The Tale of Willie Monroe. Illus. Andrew Glass. New York: Clarion, 1999. Schroeder adapted a Japanese folktale about a wrestler and three strong women. His Appalachian tale is about a muscle-bound man who wants to enter "an arm-wrestlin', log-stackin', cow-milkin', field-plowin', barn-raisin' contest" to win money and ten acres of free land. He is put in his place and then helped by two strong women. Paul Bunyan wasn't man enough to win the hand of Delilah but Willie is after the women train him, even though Granny can still out-wrestle him in the end.

Shelby, Anne. The Man Who Lived in a Hollow Tree. Illus. Cor Hazelaar. New York: Atheneum, 2009. Shelby retells and embellishes a southeastern Kentucky legend she heard from her uncle, about a man in Harlan County who went to live in a sycamore tree, growing new hair and teeth when he was old. Shelby's Harlan Burch, a carpenter, becomes young again while living in his tree and lives on to age 142, planting many trees and leaving descendants living in the woods as he did. Hazelaar's acrylic illustrations are double-page scenes with several little squares along one edge, containing images connected with the story. Her notes and diagrams at the end explain her desire to pay tribute to quilting traditions and identify each image in the inserts, some of which are regional animals or plants or traditional objects such as corn husk and limberjack dolls.

Smith, Andrea P. Davy Crockett. Junior Graphic American Legend Series. New York: PowerKids Press, 2012. 24 pp."A graphic novel account of the life and tales of Davey Crockett, early American pioneer, adventurer, soldier, and politician."

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