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Her Stories: African American Folktales, Fairy Tales, and True Tales (Coretta Scott King Author Award Winner) Hardcover – November 1, 1995

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Her Stories: African American Folktales, Fairy Tales, and True Tales (Coretta Scott King Author Award Winner) + The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Virginia Hamilton, who previously won a Newbery Medal and a MacArthur Foundation grant, gives us 17 pugnacious and heroic female characters in a collection of tales that demonstrates the breadth of African-American cultural tradition. The characters in Her Stories, which won the 1996 Coretta Scott King Award, are strong, competent, and sometimes bigger than life, like the "coal black and tree tall" Annie Christmas. Drawn from a variety of sources, the tales in Her Stories have been crafted to blend together smoothly while remaining true to their original tone. Text and art are laid against a buff background in a stylish, oversize format, with a heavy binding built to stand up to the repeated use that's sure to come.

From Publishers Weekly

The distinguished creators of The People Could Fly and Many Thousand Gone return for this striking collection of 17 tales, each featuring an African American woman or girl as the main character. True stories, ghost stories, folk legends, classic fairy tales, tall tales and more indicate the breadth of African American cultural traditions. Retold from a variety of sources, the stories flow smoothly in Hamilton's expertly measured prose. The full-color illustrations, one per story, are lush and detailed, like the Dillons' work in Pish, Posh, Said Hieronymus Bosch. In a handsome oversize format, the book itself reflects unusually high production values. Text and art are laid against a buff background in a sophisticated but uncrowded page design, and the volume is bound with an unusually heavy casing. It will need that sturdiness, for these are tales to be read over and over again. Ages 6-up.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 880L (What's this?)
  • Series: Coretta Scott King Author Award Winner
  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Blue Sky Press (November 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0590473700
  • ISBN-13: 978-0590473705
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 9.2 x 11.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #96,519 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Virginia Esther Hamilton was born, as she said, "on the outer edge of the Great Depression," on March 12, 1934. The youngest of five children of Kenneth James and Etta Belle Perry Hamilton, Virginia grew up amid a large extended family in Yellow Springs, Ohio. The farmlands of southwestern Ohio had been home to her mother's family since the late 1850s, when Virginia's grandfather, Levi Perry, was brought into the state as an infant via the Underground Railroad.

Virginia graduated at the top of her high-school class and received a full scholarship to Antioch College in Yellow Springs. In 1956, she transferred to the Ohio State University in Columbus and majored in literature and creative writing. She moved to New York City in 1958, working as a museum receptionist, cost accountant, and nightclub singer, while she pursued her dream of being a published writer. She studied fiction writing at the New School for Social Research under Hiram Haydn, one of the founders of Atheneum Press.

It was also in New York that Virginia met poet Arnold Adoff. They were married in 1960. Arnold worked as a teacher, and Virginia was able to devote her full attention to writing, at least until daughter Leigh was born in 1963 and son Jaime in 1967. In 1969, Virginia and Arnold built their "dream home" in Yellow Springs, on the last remaining acres of the old Hamilton/Perry family farm, and settled into a life of serious literary work and achievement.

In her lifetime, Virginia wrote and published 41 books in multiple genres that spanned picture books and folktales, mysteries and science fiction, realistic novels and biography. Woven into her books is a deep concern with memory, tradition, and generational legacy, especially as they helped define the lives of African Americans. Virginia described her work as "Liberation Literature." She won every major award in youth literature.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Mary Z. Cox on April 2, 1998
Format: Hardcover
The first time I met Virginia Hamiliton was when I read "Sweet Whispers, Brother Rush." I thought, this author rivals Toni Morrison with her vivid language, but she writes for children. How wonderful! "Her Stories : African American Folktales, Fairy Tales, and True Tales" is a illustrated collection of folk stories that any child would enjoy. Parents could read the tales to a young child to introduce Hamilton's work. Then later the child could begin to read some of the easier Virginia Hamilton stories such as "Cousins." Virginia Hamilton has written books that appeal to elementary, middle, and high school students. A student who finds her early will have a fine author to befriend him/her from kindergarten to high school.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Reginald D. Garrard VINE VOICE on July 7, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Here is another fantastic anthology from Virginia Hamilton, the award-winning author of "House of Dies Drear" and "The People Could Fly". This volume, also featuring the wonderful illustrations of Leo & Diane Dillon, is an eye-opener for those only familiar with European folktales.
Hamilton's book is divided into five sections: (1) Her Animal Tales, (2) Her Fairy Tales, (3) Her Supernatural, (4) Her Folkways and Legends, and (5) Her True Tales. Each section contains an average of four stories, accompanied by informative and entertaining background historical data.
Young readers will love the author's prose and the illustrators' beautiful paintings. Older readers and parents will gain a greater appreciation for a culture that has been too long ignored.
These stories are as valid and fanciful as any of their more familiar European counterparts.
The book ends with a list of valuable resources where one can find other examples of African-American folklore.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Monika on April 10, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Note: This review refers to the book "Her Stories" and NOT "Second Cousins," though for some reason reviews of both books appear on both product pages.

"Her Stories" is a delightful collection of nineteen stories from African American culture, retold by award-winning author Virginia Hamilton. The stories are divided into five categories: Her Animal Tales, Her Fairy Tales, Her Supernatural, Her Folkways and Legends, and Her True Tales. Each story focuses on a female, African American protagonist, and is about 3-4 pages in length. Hamilton's writing is vivid and colorful, yet remains simple enough that younger readers should have no trouble. The stories would also be great to read aloud. While Hamilton has translated the tales into contemporary language for easier understanding, she leaves a few conventions from Creole, Gullah, and other forms of speech that are best read aloud for full effect.

The book is also a great study in African American literary and oral tradition, and is suitable for adults as well as children. Each story is followed by commentary from the author, providing the history of the tale, how it reflects African American heritage, explanation of any unusual aspects of the story, and any additional points of interest. Some of the stories are based in history, and others are entirely ficitonal. Some bear likenesses to more familiar tales as well - "Catskinella" is an alternative form of the popular Cinderella story, and "Little Girl and Buh Rabby," comes from the tradition of Brer Rabbit stories.

"Her Stories" is also beautifully illustrated, bringing out the best in each tale. At the end of the book Hamilton has included some reflections on her own childhood, and how her mother influenced her decision to compile stories about strong African American women. This book is perfect for anyone, young or old and of any culture, interested in reading traditional folklore.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By yvolegos12 on June 1, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This book is great for both children and adults. Adults can read these stories to their children and share the wonderful illustrations inside. It is divided into five sections: Her Animal Tales, Her Fairy Tales, Her Supernatural, Her Folkways And Legends, and Her True Tales. After each story the author has commentary notes to give a little more information which I found interesting and useful. It helps the reader know a little more about the history of the story, historical background connecting with the story, or if it is entirely made up. I think this book is great for all people no matter what age, race, or gender. Most of the stories have a type of lesson or moral to teach. It helps readers have an insight to different culture. I would recommend if being part of the class room library since it is a great way to include diversity in books. It is an enjoyable read and the pictures are as enjoyable as the text it helps bring the text to life.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mary on August 9, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One of the biggest reasons I purchased the book was for the fantastic artwork of Diane and Leo Dillon. The couple has a long, varied history of illustrating all kinds of books, including those dealing with African and African American lore. Their wonderfully rich work paired with the retelling of many African-American "herstories" makes the book a real treasure for all those that read it, no matter the reader's age, race or country of origin.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Dawn Williams on December 13, 2000
Format: Paperback
Although I am an adult, I really enjoyed this book. As Cammy and Elodie are learning to deal with the death of their cousin, Patty Ann, two new cousins come into the picture. Cammy starts to feel betrayed because Elodie likes to be around Jahnina and Gigi. Cammy envy's Jahnina and wishes that she could be more like her with her city ways and computer skills. While Cammy is dealing with her cousins she also starts to wish that her divorced mom and dad will get back together. All of a sudden, Cammy becomes angered when she realizes that Jahnina is not her cousin but her father's second daughter through an afair with another woman. Cammy eventually accepts her sister and realizes that adults are not human and they make mistakes. She also redeems her relationship with her mourning aunt (Patty Ann's mother) who helps her to realize that everyone is not perfect.
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Her Stories: African American Folktales, Fairy Tales, and True Tales (Coretta Scott King Author Award Winner)
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