Sunday, September 21, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Traditional Tale: Swamp Angel by Anne Isaacs

Isaacs, Anne. Swamp Angel. Ill. by Paul O. Zelinsky. New York: Dutton Children’s Books, 1994. ISBN 0525452710

It didn’t seem from her birth that Angelica Longrider was going to grow to be anything special – after all, she had been born barely taller than her mother.  Nicknamed Swamp Angel after rescuing a wagon train from the bogs of Tennessee, Angelica decides she’s going to face off against food-stealing bear named Thundering Tarnation to claim his pelt for her own and prove she’s every bit as strong as the Tennessee men around her.  After roping a tornado, drinking a lake, wrestling in her sleep and even snoring down trees, she wins the fight and takes her prize in this Paul Bunyan style tall tale about how Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains and Ursa Major were formed.

Those readers familiar with the American Northwest’s tales about Paul Bunyan and his daring feats will enjoy reading a female character in the role from the mountainous regions of the mid-South.  The light-hearted approach to Angel’s growth and size – even the fact that she doesn’t give up when the men from the area think she’s overstepping her role, will help female readers find confidence that they too can do anything they put their mind to.  Paired with Paul O. Zelinsky’s old-fashioned oil paintings, Swamp Angel has a classic, old-school feel that is still refreshing to look at and keeps the pages turning with swaps between small vignettes on wooden backgrounds to full page landscapes with little details just popping off the page.  Another thing that pops off the page are the small references to pour quoi tales of how the Great Smokey Mountains got their ‘smoke’ and how Ursa Major was formed in the night sky.

From PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY – “The story continues in this casually overstated vein, explaining how Angelica got the appellation Swamp Angel at the age of 12 after rescuing a wagon train mired in the mud. But the larger-than-life girl's reputation grows to truly gargantuan proportions when she bests an even larger bear, throwing him up in the sky, where "he crashed into a pile of stars, making a lasting impression. You can still see him there, any clear night." This valiant heroine is certain to leave youngsters chuckling-and perhaps even keeping a close watch on the night sky.”
From SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL – “A master of composition, he varies readers' perspectives by framing the portrait of the newborn and, later, the series of male hunters with small ovals. He uses double-page lunettes to depict the massive bear and woman sprawled across the pages, and places the menacing beast lunging over the frame in another memorable scene. The pictures and words cavort across the page in perfect synchronization, revealing the heroine's feisty solution.”

Gather other pour quoi tall tales to read such as:
     Kellogg, Steven. Ills. Laura Robb.  PECOS BILL.  ISBN 0688099246
     Nolen, Jerdine. Ills. Kadir Nelson. THUNDER ROSE.  ISBN 0152060065
     dePaola, Tomie. THE LEGEND OF THE BLUEBONNET.  ISBN 0399209379

Gather other Anne Isaacs books to read such as:
     Ills. Paul Zelinsky.  DUST DEVIL.  ISBN 0375867228
     Ills. Mark Teague. PANCAKES FOR SUPPER!  ISBN 0439644836

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