Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Paul Bunyan

Paul Bunyan was retold by Bill Balcziak and illustrated by Patrick Girouard.  It was published in 2003 by Compass Point Books.

While searching for a tall tale to read, Paul Bunyan caught my eye.  I believe it was because, although I have heard snippets of this tall tale, I had never heard the entire story before, and was interested in learning the tale of Paul Bunyan and how it began.

                This book is a picture book, but it is separated into chapters since tall tales are considered to be nonfiction. It begins with an overview of who Paul Bunyan is in the chapter “Giant of a Man.” It introduces him as the largest man ever to have walked the earth; someone who shook the ground he walked on and stood as wide as a house and taller than the tallest trees.  After the introduction, it backtracks to his childhood. It is told that six of the strongest storks had to bring him to his family and that by the time he was a month old, he was as tall as the house.  For breakfast, he ate enough food to feed a village for a month, and had to have his clothing made of blankets and tents.

                As he grew, problems arose.  He had rolled into a river, which made the water rise so much it had flooded the town around it.  At this point, the townspeople asked the Bunyan family to leave.  They moved to a more secluded area, where Paul grew up with the love and support of his family, and where he met his beloved ox, Blue. When he turned 18, he was ready to move out and start to support himself.  He and Blue heard of gold in the mid west, so they went and dug up five huge holes.  Although they didn’t find gold, they did end up creating the Great Lakes.  They moved further west and began a logging company.  To provide enough fire and food for the men who worked for him, they had to chop down every tree in sight.  This is how the Great Plains were developed. 

                One of the things that surprised me while reading this book is how everything was exaggerated.  I hadn’t realized that with this tall tale that Paul Bunyan and Blue’s size weren’t the only things exaggerated.  “Birds froze in midair and stayed there until spring thaw.  People’s breath hung in solid, frozen clouds that bumped their heads if they weren’t careful.  One night it got so cold the falling snow turned from white to blue.”  These lines made me smile, as I could imagine birds just hanging in the air all winter long!

                I enjoyed reading the entire tale, but especially liked the “Did You Know” in the back of the book.  It gives true facts of Paul Bunyan and his tale, such as “The first printed Paul Bunyan story appeared in the Detroit News-Tribune on July 24, 1910” and “ Paul Bunyan appeared on a 32-cent United Stated postage stamp in 1996.” 

                Although the story was interesting and funny, I don’t feel as though the illustrations matched in this book.  The pictures were bright and bold, very colorful and modern.  Since this is an old tale, I think that the colors should have been more muted and less bold. 

                Paul Bunyan was a good read. It was fun to get to know the story a little better and I enjoyed learning more about the legend.  If you would like to continue learning, please visit FactHound to find more information about the book.  Once you are there, type on 0756504597 and then click on the Fetch It button.

                 If you are on the road, you can find the Paul Bunyan Logging Camp in Eau Clair, WI, where you can visit an interpretive center with interactive tall tales authentic to the 1900s logging era.

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