Too Tall for Truth: Tall Tales - John Henry by Julius Lester

John Henry by Julius Lester. Dial, 1994.

An authentic, engaging voice mingles fantasy with reality.

Pinkney’s vivid artwork combines with Lester’s picturesque text to make the telling of the story every bit as “larger than life” as the subject of the story. Lester fills his pages with word pictures, “bat wings on tombstones” and personification, the sun flossing, the wind out of breath. Yet he tosses in modern items, “like the school bus is never going to come,” which walks the line between contextualizing the fable and distracting from it (I’d vote for distracting).

But with other similes, “mountain as big as hurt feelings,” Lester touches the child’s world. A fabulous example of a Tall Tale capturing a bit of culture and history.