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The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales Paperback – January 4, 1993


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The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales + Her Stories: African American Folktales, Fairy Tales, and True Tales (Coretta Scott King Author Award Winner) + Many Thousand Gone: African Americans from Slavery to Freedom
Price for all three: $41.19

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Product Details

  • Grade Level: Kindergarten - 12
  • Lexile Measure: 660L (What's this?)
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (January 4, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679843361
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679843368
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 0.6 x 9.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #202,512 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Virginia Hamilton, Newbery Medal winner and recipient of the National Book Award and the Hans Christian Andersen Award, teams up with two-time Caldecott Medal winners, Leo and Diane Dillon, in this classic collection of American black folktales, winner of the Coretta Scott King Award. By turns droll, grisly, and spine-tingling, the 24 stories celebrate the indomitable human spirit, surviving under the most crushing circumstances of slavery. Traditionally, storytelling has helped people to push through sorrow and pain, especially when the stories are saturated with magic, mysticism, and fantasy. Bruh Rabbit, He Lion, Tar Baby, and other animals populate many of the stories. In others, John, the traditional trickster hero, outwits the slave owner time after time to win his freedom.

Included with this very special edition is a CD featuring the commanding voices of Hamilton and actor James Earl Jones. Eleven selections, including "The Peculiar Such Thing," "John and the Devil's Daughter," "A Wolf and Little Daughter," and "The People Could Fly," bring to life the rhythm and lyrical energy of Hamilton's text. Leo and Diane Dillon's strikingly beautiful black and white illustrations continue to mesmerize and haunt the reader. (All ages) --Emilie Coulter --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

This widely lauded anthology boasts stunning black-and-white artwork and stirringly told stories with such evocative titles as "The Beautiful Girl of the Moon Tower" and "Wiley, His Mama, and the Hairy Man." All ages.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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

An important work of Western civilization.
Big Mike Magee
I loved this book as a child and now pass it on to every little one in my family.
Getfitchi13
What a cute book for all children and adults to read.
Janet Scott

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 21, 1999
Format: Paperback
I really enjoyed reading this book, I am 9 year old. I read the book in about 2 days, it was about African-American folk tales. The best story in the book was "if the people could fly".
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 26, 1998
Format: Paperback
This book rates way up there as a wonderful resource for anyone who is trying to raise children to have an appreciation for the cultures that make up our great country. As a home educator, I am always on the lookout for multi-cultural resources that provide a window into the backgrounds of others. Since the author writes from personal background experience, as well as research into the African-American folktales, I believe it is an excellent representation of stories that children would have grown up with in that culture. Besides, it's exciting, interesting, fun to read aloud, and has wonderful illustrations!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Malcolm from South Baltimore on June 18, 2005
Format: Paperback
I read this book when I was in elementary school and fell in love with it. Virginia Hamilton really captures the essence of West African story telling and transfers that essence into American form. As an educator and historian, the lessons in this book has stayed with me for well over 18 yrs and I suspect the lessons will remain with me forever. I recommend that this book is on the shelves of every African American family.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Shoe Lover on November 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I first heard of this book when I was in 5th grade (about 10-11 yrs. old)...I'm 28 now. My African-American teacher would read us stories from it. I remember enjoying the stories so much that I bought this book for my son about 2 yrs. ago. My son is almost 3 now & while he can't read yet, I know he will enjoy the stories as much as I have. This book comes with a CD & is narrated by the author & James Earl Jones...the narration was well done. I listened to the CD & I felt as if I had gone back in time. The narrators are so vivid & they really get your attention. The CD is definitely a plus & the book was well written. I really like that the stories have morals & life lessons that we can learn from. I recommend buying this version of the book because it comes with the CD. I also recommend this book for children 9 & up. This book would be a great addition to anyone's book collection. I hope my review is helpful.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Andre M. on November 18, 2006
Format: Paperback
As a storyteller and folklorist/historian, it saddens me that so few children today know anything about the joys of hearing a good tale from a wise elder. In Black America in particular, generations of children (including my father, thank God) had the wonderful tales of Brer Rabbit, Little 8 John, Raw head & Bloody Bones, Wiley & The Hairy Man, and the People Who Could Fly (title story) told to them as today's children are familiar with Kim Possible and the Proud Family.

I bought this for my beloved niece when she was eight and pretty soon, she began entertaining the children of the neighborhood with these tales just as I did after listening to my dad and I still do during storytelling gigs today.

Virginia Hamilton (RIP) did a masterful work in leaving this beautiful legacy to a generation where it is fast disappearing. She does a good job in interpreting the likes of Wiley the Hairy man, Raw Head and Bloody Bones (the PC crowd occasionally complains about this being too scary for kids as well as Brer Rabbit-let these crybaby fools go ahead with that sickening Barney the Dinosaur and the care bears). The edition that I bought for my neice was before the CD with Miss Hamilton and voicemaster James Earl Jones came out, but I have younger neices and nephews (and hopefully my own children in the future) that I will certainly look out for this for.

Another reason why this collection is in such need is that often, African-American parents (rightfully) complain about the lack of wholesome entertainment for their children in particular.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By "skaqueen7" on April 25, 2000
Format: Library Binding
I read this book when I was in elementary school. I am now in college, and it has stayed with me all of these years. I am currently involved in drawing up a cannon for my literature class, and this book of great and inspiring folklore will definitely be included!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By amazonbuyer on March 9, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a trifecta:

1. You get to hear the author read her own writing. If you want to hear Virginia Hamilton and James Earl Jones adding their own special lyrical beauty to the reading of these stories, then purchase this version. Considering that Ms. Hamilton died in 2002, this CD is a must have.

I think it is important for children to hear the author reading their own work. So if you can't get to a book reading by the author, this is the next best thing. And you get to hear it over and over again.

2. The illustrations are magical, delicate, and powerful. Every child (but especially black and white) in this nation should hear the stories in this book. Before they know color issues, they should get to know the beauty and dignity of brown skin. To hear the dignity, power, and humanity of their own heritage or that of someone elses, before a world of anger taints them.

3. At the end of each story is a brief history of the story: it's origin, and variations, and other facts that help the story to become more real and personal, especially for a child who wants to know more about their heritage. This will inspire them to ask questions and (if they're older) do research as it caused me to do.
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