Written and Illustrated by Steven Kellogg
William Morrow and Company, 1996
I was born about ten thousand years ago
And there’s nothing in the world that I don’t know.
The plot in a nutshell: A group of kids spin a tall tale
It starts with a boy saying he was there when Moses was drawn from the water. He is joined by another boy who claims to have been present when Adam and Eve were sent from the Garden of Eden. A girl adds that she taught Samson how to be strong, showed Columbus how to reach America and helped Pharoah construct the pyramids. This continues throughout the book, with new kids joining in and sharing even more fanciful stories, involving dinosaurs and even classic tall tale heroes like Paul Bunyan and Pecos Bill. When the kids are done, they invite the reader to come up with some yarns of their own.
Author/illustrator Steven Kellogg includes an author’s note at the front of this book that explains the origins of the tall tale and its place in history. His appreciation for the art of spinning a good yarn comes through pretty strongly and is even further underscored throughout this book, as his story joyfully leaps and dives through thousands of years of history and fiction. Fans of Mr. Kellogg will recognize many of the tall tale characters from his previous books, as he’s written about most of these (and other) folk heroes before. The artwork, in colored ink, watercolor and acrylics, is done in Mr. Kellogg’s customary rich and detailed style.
Some of the verses in this book come from the traditional folk song of the same title (also sometimes called The Bragging Song), but Mr. Kellogg has tacked on some of his own lines and created illustrations to go along with all of it. The inside back cover features the sheet music to the folk song, if you want to sing the story instead of reading it. The rhyme scheme is similar to a limerick, but the meter is a little different. Elvis Presley recorded a version of the song, if you’re interested in hearing it.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that there are always wonderful stories to be shared from those who give free rein to their imagination.