Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Nonfiction: Mountain Jack Tales by Gail E. Haley

Publisher: Dutton
Date: 1992
Format: hardback
Source: library sale
Read: because I was feeling nostalgic for western North Carolina
Pages: 125

From GoodReads: Jack is the universal folk hero and adventurer. Tales of Jack's adventures are as timeless as bedrock but as fresh as dawn in the Appalachian hills. Whether Jack is outsmarting ogres, besting card sharks, wrestling with ornery witches, or even taking on Old Man Death himself, the plainspoken hero's common sense, goodness, and hill-country humor help him come out on top every time. 

My review: This collection of Appalachian Jack Tales contains ten stories as well as lovely engraved illustrations by the author. The tales are charming and, at least superficially, simple. Haley includes a lot of dialect (not to the extent that the book is at all difficult to read), which adds to the oral style of her writing. You can almost hear "Poppyseed's" voice telling the stories aloud as they were originally told. I was particularly interested in the motifs from other folktales that appeared, as well as the common themes of a longing for wealth in a hardscrabble life. These stories are occasionally comical and always enjoyable to read. I highly recommend Haley's collection if you're either interested in folklore or are just looking for a good storybook to read to your kids (or both!).

I have also reviewed Richard Chase's collection of Jack Tales here. Chase's book has about twice as many stories, but I think I enjoyed Haley's method of storytelling more.

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