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Uncle Remus: The Complete Tales Hardcover – October 1, 1999

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Born in 1939, Julius Lester spent his youth in the Midwest and the South and received a B.A. in English from Fisk University in 1960.

Since 1968 he has published 25 books of fiction, nonfiction, children's books, and poetry. Among the awards these books have received are the Newbery Honor Medal, American Library Association Notable Book, National Jewish Book Award Finalist, The New York Times Outstanding Book, National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist, Caldecott Honor Book, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, and a National Book Award Finalist. His books have been translated into eight languages.

He has published more than one hundred essays and reviews in such publications The New York Times Book Review, The New York Times Op-Ed Page,The Boston Globe, The Village Voice, The New Republic, Katallagete, Moment, Forward, and Dissent.

He has recorded two albums of original songs, hosted and produced a radio show on WBAI-FM in New York City for eight years, and hosted a live television show on WNET in New York for two years. A veteran of the Civil Rights Movement, his photographs of that movement are included in an exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution and are part of the permanent photographic collection at Howard University.

After teaching at the New School for Social Research for two years, Mr. Lester joined the faculty of the University of Massachusetts/Amherst in 1971 where he is presently a full professor in the Judaic and Near Eastern Studies Department, and adjunct professor in the English and History departments. He also serves as lay religious leader of Beth El Synagogue in St. Johnsbury, Vermont.

He has been awarded all four of the university's most prestigious faculty awards: The Distinguished Teacher's Award; the Faculty Fellowship Award for Distinguished Research and Scholarship; Distinguished Faculty Lecturer; and recipient of the Chancellor's Medal, the University's highest honor. In 1986 the Council for Advancement and Support of Education selected him as the Massachusetts State Professor of the Year.

Mr. Lester's biography has appeared in Who's Who In America since 1970. He has given lectures and papers at more than 100 colleges and universities.

His most recent books are John Henry, And All Our Wounds Forgiven, a novel about the civil rights movement, and Othello, a novel based on the Shakespeare play.

Jerry Pinkney has been illustrating children's books since 1964 and has the rare distinction of being the recipient of:

Five Caldecott Honor Medals

Five Coretta Scott King Awards

Four New York Times Best Illustrated Awards (most recently 2006 Little Red Hen)

Four Gold and four Silver medals from the Society of Illustrators

Boston Globe Honor Book Award (John Henry 1994)

In addition to his work on children's books, he is an extremely successful artist who has had eleven one-man retrospectives at venues ranging from the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists to the Art Institute of Chicago. His current one-man show entitled, "Building Bridges, the Art of Jerry Pinkney" was organized by the Pittsburgh Children's Museum and will be traveling through 1998. Mr. Pinkney has illustrated for a wide variety of clients, including National Geographic , the National Parks Service, the U.S. Postal Service, the American Library Association and the Association of Booksellers for Children.

Born in Philadelphia in 1939, Jerry Pinkney states, "(I) took an interest in drawing very early in my life, and at some point I realized I'd rather sit and draw than do almost anything else." While growing up in the Germantown section of Philadelphia his interest in art was supported by hisfamily -- especially by his mother. "She certainly understood me and made it clear to everyone that if art was what I wanted to pursue, then that's what she wanted to have happen. My father also became very supportive, and when I wanted to take art classes after school he found ways for me to attend."

In junior high school Mr. Pinkney had a newsstand and took a drawing pad with him to work every day and sketched passersby. That was how he met the cartoonist John Liney, who encouraged him to draw and showed him the possibilities of making a living as an artist.

After graduating from the commercial art program at Dobbins Vocational School, where he met his wife, author Gloria Jean Pinkney, Jerry Pinkney received a full scholarship to attend the Philadelphia Museum College of Art (now University of the Arts). While at PCA he and Gloria married. After their first child was born, they moved to Boston, where Mr. Pinkney worked as a designer at Rustcraft Greeting Card Company, and at Barker-Black Studio where he developed his reputation as an illustrator. Eventually he opened Kaleidoscope Studio with two other artists. Later he opened his own freelance studio -- Jerry Pinkney Studio -- and moved to New York. Sensitivity to and an interest in a variety of cultures has always been a dominant theme of Mr. Pinkney s work. He has also drawn inspiration for a significant part of his work from African American culture. Among his numerous projects are his twelve postage stamps for the U.S. Postal Service Black Heritage series. Mr. Pinkney was a member of its Advisory Committee for ten years and he was also invited to join the NASA artist team for the space shuttle Columbia. "I wanted to show that an African American artist could make it on a national level in the graphic arts. I want to be a strong role model for my family and for other African Americans."

Many of Mr. Pinkney's children's books celebrate multicultural and African American themes. "Working on both the Uncle Remus tales and John Henry has shown me an important link between pivotal and opposite African American folk heroes. Brer Rabbit, the sly trickster, originated during slavery and was the first African American folk hero. Slaves who wanted to get the better of their masters needed to be cunning and sly -- hence the trickster role. However, later comes John Henry, a free man, whose strength and valor bring him fame. He was a strong folk hero for African Americans, a symbol of all the working men who made a major contribution to the building of the roads and railroads in the mountains of West Virginia -- a dangerous job for which many paid with their lives."

Mr. Pinkney's two latest books areThe Little Red Hen and The Old African by Julius Lester (illustrated by Jerry Pinkney). Books give me a great feeling of personal and artistic satisfaction. When I'm working on a book, I wish the phone would never ring. I love doing it. My satisfaction comes from the actual marks on the paper, and when it sings, it's magic".

Jerry and Gloria Pinkney live in Westchester County, New York. The Pinkneys have four children: Troy, Scott, Brian, and Myles, and seven grandchildren. Two of the Pinkney's children are also involved in children's book illustration, Brian through illustrations, and Myles throughphotography. In addition to illustrating children's books and other projects, Mr. Pinkney has also been an art professor at the University of Delaware and State University of New York at Buffalo. He has given workshops and been a guest lecturer at universities and art schools across thecountry.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 7
  • Hardcover: 696 pages
  • Publisher: Dial Books (October 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803724519
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803724518
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.7 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #70,608 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Born in 1939, Julius Lester spent his youth in the Midwest and the South and received a B.A. in English from Fisk University in 1960.Since 1968 he has published 25 books of fiction, nonfiction, children's books, and poetry. Among the awards these books have received are the Newbery Honor Medal, American Library Association Notable Book, National Jewish Book Award Finalist, The New York Times Outstanding Book, National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist, Caldecott Honor Book, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, and a National Book Award Finalist. His books have been translated into eight languages.He has published more than one hundred essays and reviews in such publications The New York Times Book Review, The New York Times Op-Ed Page, The Boston Globe, The Village Voice, The New Republic, Katallagete, Moment, Forward, and Dissent.He has recorded two albums of original songs, hosted and produced a radio show on WBAI-FM in New York City for eight years, and hosted a live television show on WNET in New York for two years. A veteran of the Civil Rights Movement, his photographs of that movement are included in an exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution and are part of the permanent photographic collection at Howard University.After teaching at the New School for Social Research for two years, Mr. Lester joined the faculty of the University of Massachusetts/Amherst in 1971 where he is presently a full professor in the Judaic and Near Eastern Studies Department, and adjunct professor in the English and History departments. He also serves as lay religious leader of Beth El Synagogue in St. Johnsbury, Vermont.He has been awarded all four of the university's most prestigious faculty awards: The Distinguished Teacher's Award; the Faculty Fellowship Award for Distinguished Research and Scholarship; Distinguished Faculty Lecturer; and recipient of the Chancellor's Medal, the University's highest honor. In 1986 the Council for Advancement and Support of Education selected him as the Massachusetts State Professor of the Year.Mr. Lester's biography has appeared in Who's Who In America since 1970. He has given lectures and papers at more than 100 colleges and universities.His most recent books are John Henry, And All Our Wounds Forgiven, a novel about the civil rights movement, and Othello, a novel based on the Shakespeare play.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 43 people found the following review helpful By David Michael Cohen on May 22, 2003
Format: Hardcover
In his retelling of the "Uncle Remus" stories (first collected by Joel Chandler Harris), Mr. Lester takes some liberties. Mr. Lester's Uncle Remus is undefined, a narrator who lends a clear and distinctive voice to the stories, yet is never identified or described, unlike the elderly ex-slave of the Harris tellings. This was done so the reader could develop his or her own ideas of just who the new Uncle Remus is. Second, Mr. Lester unabashedly uses modern language and references (like shopping malls and the like). There are those who would say that by doing so Mr. Lester is ruining the Uncle Remus stories. However, Mr. Lester makes it very clear that his intent was not to ruin the stories, but to save them.
This assertion is underscored by the fact that although the language of the book is modern, the stories themselves are largely untouched. Mr. Lester does not present us with the Disney version of Brer Rabbit; a likeable character who serves the role of passive protagonist. Mr. Lester's Brer Rabbit, like Harris' Brer Rabbit, is an unrepentent troublemaker whose cleverness does more than lift him out of jams. He steals, lies, stirs up conflict and on a few occasions, commits murder. In that sense, despite the updated language, Mr. Lester's versions are far closer to the source material than most authors who retell the Uncle Remus stories.
I take nothing away from the works of Harris. For those who wish to read the original works in the original dialect and accept them as products of the age in which they were written, then the books are an excellent read. Unfortunately, most modern readers will not want to struggle with the dialect or accept Uncle Remus' congenial attitude towards his own enslavement.
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25 of 30 people found the following review helpful By David on March 5, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I too have mixed emotions about this version of the Tales of Uncle Remus. Thankfully I have borrowed, and not bought it--I will purchase the complete tales in their original form and joyfully deal with any difficulties. As an aspiring author myself, the idea of anyone going back and "touching up" my book is decidedly unpleasant. Though I have enjoyed reading these stories to my son, I have not enjoyed having to watch out for Adidas and MTV references. I feel strongly that these attempts to "modernize" these stories is at best distasteful, and completely unnecessary. I also found this inserted statement in one of the stories hypocritical and offensive (forget which one just now, but it's there): white people were being foolish by attempting to tan because if the Lord had wanted them to be beautiful like black folks He would have made them black. Perhaps Mr. Lester would say he was just kidding, but even if that is the case I feel there is not a level playing field here.
Though the original has material offensive to some, I view it as a historical document that should not be glossed over or otherwise edited, no matter how good the intentions may be. Let the stories speak for themselves, and if need be, include a modernized english version on the facing pages, but please do not "amend" the text itself.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By mtseattle on June 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is a brilliant and lively retelling of the Brer Rabbit stories. The kids love it and never let me stop at one story. It's an absolute riot.

As Julius Lester writes, folk tales are intended to be told and retold. This version does it with wit and style, liberating the stories from Chandler's unreadable semi-phonetic transliterations while retaining the speech patterns, and most importantly, losing non of the original spirit of the stories. These are the real Brer Rabbit stories vividly retold and brought back to life. This book is an absolute favorite at our house.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Steven J. Lacy Sr. on December 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I tried to read the original Joel Chandler stories to my 5 year old son and found that the only way to do it was to read the stories on my own and then tell him a "translated" version at bedtime. This book was far easier to use, and I was able to read the stories to him verbatim. Much more appropriate for small children than the original...
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Desert Rat on January 23, 2002
Format: Hardcover
The artwork of the book is excellent and the format is great but if you want the original feel of the Joel Chandler Harris stories go out and get the originals. The language used by Harris is challenging for both reader and listener, however, and this book by Lester may present a good alternative when reading the stories to young children or if you are not particulary apt with reading different dialects.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Marissia L. Seals on March 18, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is just a watered down version, by replacing the colorful language they have also taken away part of the beauty of the story. I wish I had not wasted my money on this version.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Catholic mom of many on February 1, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I have not read the original Uncle Remus stories so I can not compare these with them. What I can say is that these stories show Brer Rabbit's and the other animals' resourcefulness and cleverness and are told with humor. It is the humor which sets them apart from other fairy/folk tales. I don't think I would be able to read these effectively myself, but the audio book, which is read by the author, has mesmerized my children (ages 18 months to 6 yrs) and left them cackling over and over again.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By F. Sheppard on May 12, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Joel Chandler Harris did a wonderful job collecting African American Folk Tales in the original dialect spoken by the people who told him the stories (slaves). This edited version carries a hint of the dialect. The simplified dialect makes these stories more accessible to the average person today. Many of the stories can be found in collections African Folk Tales. They are full of wit and wisdom.
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