From School Library Journal
Grade 3 Up–Myers joins the growing list of writers and illustrators who are mining the southern folklore collected by Hurston in the 1930s. His jocular introduction avers that, Way, way back in the day,/Back when George Washington's hair on the one-dollar bill hadn't yet turned white./Back when computers ran on steam power,/Back when cellular phones had rotary dials,…/There were lies,/Real lies…. The lies are set here in a bantering, conversational scheme as tellers try to top one another in traditional exchanges. (If you haven't heard about it, you better ask your mama!) That reminds me of this one man. He was so mean, he greased another man and swallowed him whole. Myers captures the spoken rhythm, often incorporating the original Black English and placing some words in print of a contrasting color for emphasis. Most episodes fit on a single page and face a spare, bold collage scene. Some scenes use the entire page, while others are set on hemmed fabric pieces to resemble small quilts on the page. Myers uses a judicious eye and ear, conveying the silly nuances without overwhelming them. The collection of small bits may need introducing to many children, but the silly claims evoke chuckles and could certainly spark further telling among listeners–just as they did originally. The economical views could inspire viewers to create their own story interpretations in art, and both the story scheme and origins will serve well where folk material is covered in the curriculum.–Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston
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*Starred Review* PreS-Gr. 2. "A lie so good you didn't even want to know the truth." Myers has adapted and illustrated some of the wild, very short, wicked stories collected by the Harlem Renaissance folklorist, anthropologist, and writer Zora Neale Hurston. He cites her sources as she quoted them, ordinary folk, such as "Floyd Thomas, age 23, phosphate miner, born in Florida." True to the spirit of the tall-tale oral tradition, Myers' quiltlike pictures in paper and fabric collage are minimalist and exaggerated, magical and mundane. Everyone will have a favorite story or image; perhaps it will be the one in which the narrator "seen wind so hard / till it blowed a man's nose off his face and / onto the back of his neck, . . . every time he sneeze / he blow his hat off." True to the irreverence of Hurston herself, Myers says he found the stories in a government office, "which is where they are keeping all the lies nowadays." Perfect for sharing with many age groups, this picture book will be a winner at family and cultural celebrations. Hazel Rochman
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