Did I ever tell you about the time Calamity Jane and Pecos Bill were having an awful brawl, trying to figure out just who was the gosh darn best Tall Tale hero to ever stomp around America? Yep, they near about squashed all the hills with their rollin’ around, wrestlin’ — that’s why Illinois is so flat, you know. Well, sure enough, they soon got tuckered out and agreed to consult the librarian (a giant in her own right). She directed them to the S-Collection, which has enough folklore resources to fill even the biggest empty noggin with all a fella’d ever need to know about Tall Tales. Here are the tips she gave to get them started:
Tall Tales can be a little slippery to track down. They’re shelved in several places because many of the legends are based on real people and events, and some books have many stories (anthologies), and some focus on the classic stories while others make up brand new whoppers based on the classics.
There are three main places to check for Tall Tales on the shelves:
● The folklore and fairy tales section in S.398.2;
● Biography, which will have a call number that starts S.920 or SB;
● Filed among the picture books, with a call number that starts with SE.
Because of how spread out these stories are, you might want to first do a catalog search to find the locations of the titles that will be most useful to you. If you have a specific Tall Tale character in mind, you can do a search for their name (e.g., “Paul Bunyan”). If you are looking for collections or aren’t quite sure which character to read about, try a keyword search for “Tall Tales” or “United States Folklore.” Many subject headings for Tall Tales also include “Legendary Character,” so that’s a good bet for searching, too.
Below, you’ll find some recent additions to the S-Collection’s Tall Tales — a mix of fiction and nonfiction, classic renditions and new adaptations. Keep your eyes peeled in the next few months: we’ll be adding a two-volume encyclopedia of American Folklore to our reference collection.
Juan and the Jackalope: a children’s book in verse. 2009.
Competing for the hand of the lovely Rosita and her rhubarb pie, Juan rides a Jackalope in a race against Pecos Bill.
[S-Coll SE. An18j]
Paul Bunyan vs. Hals Halson: the giant lumberjack challenge!2011.
Hals Halson, who is nearly as tall as the legendary Paul Bunyan, strides into a logging camp determined to prove himself the greatest lumberjack in North America, despite Paul’s attempts at friendship.
[S-Coll Q. SE. B317pa]
Codell, Esmé Raji.
Seed by seed: the legend and legacy of Johnny “Appleseed” Chapman. 2012.
His real name was John Chapman. He grew apples. Why should he be remembered, more than 200 years after he was born? Codell and Perkins show in eloquent words and exhilarating pictures why Johnny Appleseed matters now.
[S-Coll Q. SB. A6489c]
Railroad John and the Red Rock run. 2006.
Lonesome Bob and Granny Apple Fritter have to get to Red Rock by two o’clock or Lonesome will miss his wedding, but Railroad John has never been late so nothing will keep him from pulling the train in by 1:59.
[S-Coll Storage SE. C8881r]
Casey Jones. 2001.
Illustrations and rhythmic text tell how the famous engineer, Casey Jones, risks his own life to save others.
[S-Coll Storage Q. S.D844c]
The trailblazing life of Daniel Boone: and how early Americans took to the road. 2007.
Profiles the life and adventures of Daniel Boone; chronicling his childhood in Pennsylvania, service in the French and Indian War, journey across the Appalachians, and settlement of Boonesboro, Kentucky; and includes illustrations, maps, and primary source quotations.
[S-Coll & S-Coll Storage SB. B724h]
Abe Lincoln crosses a creek: a tall, thin tale (introducing his forgotten frontier friend). 2008.
The year is 1816. Abe is only seven years old, and his pal, Austin, is ten. Abe and Austin decide to journey down to Knob Creek. The water looks scary and deep, and Austin points out that they don’t know how to swim. Nevertheless, they decide to traverse it. I won’t tell you what happens, but let’s just say that our country wouldn’t be the same if Austin hadn’t been there to help his friend.
[S-Coll Q. SE. H77a]
Dust devil. 2010.
Having moved to Montana from Tennessee in the 1830s, fearless Angelica Longrider–also known as Swamp Angel–changes the state’s landscape, tames a wild horse, and captures some desperadoes.
[S-Coll Q. S. Is14d]
The United States of storytelling. 2010.
Collects true stories and legends, ranging from the Hispanic legend of La Llorona to the Dakota War of 1862 and from the African-American folktale “Wiley and the Hairy Man” to the true story of Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman doctor in America. Two volumes.
[S-Coll S.398.2 K237u]
Mike Fink: a tall tale. 1992.
Mike Fink, the larger-than-life hero of one of America’s favorite tall tales, was the most daring and rugged frontiersman on any American river. A runaway at two days old, Mike eventually grew up to be King of the Keelboatmen–the strong, rowdy men who floated cargo downriver to New Orleans and poled their heavy boats back against the current. But first he became a crackerjack marksman with his gun, Bang All, then grappled with grizzlies, and defeated Jack Carpenter, the reigning Keelboat King, in an epic wrestling match. No man, alligator, or snapping turtle could outdo the mighty Mike Fink–that is, until Hilton P. Blathersby and his powerful smoke-spewing steamboat came along!
[S-Coll Storage Q. S.398.220973 K294M]
Kimmel, Eric A.
The Great Texas hamster drive. 2007.
When Pecos Bill’s daughter gets two pet hamsters, they soon multiply into the hundreds, so Bill decides to take them all to Chicago where lots of boys and girls want pet hamsters.
[S-Coll Storage Q. SE. K571g]
Krohn, Katherine E.
Women of the wild West. 2000.
Presents an account of frontier life for women in the American West through brief biographies of six famous individuals, including Calamity Jane, Molly Brown, Belle Starr, Pearl Hart, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Annie Oakley.
[S-Coll Storage S.920.720978 K916w]
Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox: the great pancake adventure. 2012.
In this humorous twist on a classic tale, Paul Bunyan and his best friend, Babe the Blue Ox, leave life on the farm to work for a logger who pays them with their favorite thing: pancakes. Paul and Babe tromp across the country with the logger, filling valleys with pancake batter (forming the Rocky Mountains) and chasing down pancakes blown away by the wind (creating the Grand Canyon). But when Babe starts to feel sick from eating too many pancakes, the two realize that maybe the farm, with its variety of foods, is really the best place for them after all.
[S-Coll Q. SE. L964p]
Recounts some of the astounding adventures of the legendary New England sea captain who could tie an octopus in knots.
[S-Coll Storage Q. S.398.2 M564st]
Davy Crockett gets hitched. 2009.
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.
[S-Coll Q. S.398.2 M612d]
Miss Sally Ann and the panther. 2012.
Miss Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind could rope a hurricane, outspin a steam mill, and blow out the moonlight in a single breath. She had an epic wrestling match with Fireeyes, a mean-as-tarnation panther whose eyes glared fire, before each won the other’s respect and friendship followed.
[S-Coll Q. S.398.2 M6126m]
Miller, Robert H.
The story of Nat Love. 1995.
Born a slave in Tennessee, Nat Love was just 15 years old when he rode into the raw cowboy town of Dodge City, Kansas, in 1869, yet he was already a skilled bronco buster with a strong natural talent for roping and shooting. He became known as Deadwood Dick, Champion Roper and Best Shot of the Western Cattle Country.
[Education-Oak St Facility Q.SB. L897M]
Ain’t nothing but a man: my quest to find the real John Henry. 2008.
Historian Scott Reynolds Nelson recounts how he came to discover the real John Henry, an African-American railroad worker who became a legend in the famous song.
[S-Coll SB. H522a]
Osborne, Mary Pope.
American tall tales. 1991.
A collection of tall tales about such American folk heroes as Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind, Pecos Bill, John Henry, and Paul Bunyan.
[S-Coll Q. S.398.220973 Os1a]
Animal folk tales of America: Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, The jumping frog, Davy Crockett, Johnny Appleseed, Sweet Betsy, and many others. 2010.
Retells fourteen American folktales focusing on the role animals played in American pioneer heritage.
[S-Coll Q. S.398.2 P173a2010]
Pinkney, Andrea Davis.
Peggony-Po: a whale of a tale. 2006.
Peggony-Po, carved out of wood by his father, a one-legged whaler, determines to catch the huge whale that ate his father’s leg.
[S-Coll Storage Q. S. P6562p]
Rockwell, Anne F.
They called her Molly Pitcher. 2002.
When Molly Hays’ husband joined General Washington’s army, Molly went with him. She carried water to the soldiers while they were fighting during the scorching hot summer. One day, her husband was wounded in battle. Satisfying herself that he would live, she took over his position — firing the cannon! Her story has become a beloved legend of American history.
[S-Coll Storage SB. H425r]
… And after reading every book on the subject (it took them four years and three days), Calamity Jane and Pecos Bill had to admit: The gosh darn best Tall Tale hero was clearly Babe the Blue Ox.
Graduate School of Library and Information Science
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign