April 2004

Tales from a famous folklorist

By Zora Neale Hurston
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Zora Neale Hurston, whose rich literary legacy includes the beloved book Their Eyes Were Watching God, was also an anthropologist who collected oral stories as she traveled throughout the South. Now some of the narratives from Every Tongue Got to Confess, her third volume of collected folktales from the 1930s, have been adapted into a picture book by award-winning author Joyce Carol Thomas. The volume is brought to life with vibrant paintings and collages by Caldecott Honor recipient Bryan Collier. In the tradition of animal fables, the stories here use the animal kingdom to illuminate human foibles and relationships. There's the tale of Buzzard, the procrastinator, who vows to build a new house when it stops raining, only to put the task off when the sun shines. And then there's the story about flies, creatures so small they have a hard time fighting for their share of food. They're forced to fly up to Heaven and complain to God: "Lord, we ain't got no weapons to fight with and no way to protect ourselves, and we can't get nothing to eat." And God fixed it so that now flies "swarm over everybody's food before they can even take the first bite."

In her introduction to this delightful collection, Thomas notes that Hurston's work is "Wise, witty, and wonderful! Zora Neale Hurston . . . has willed us a legacy of laughter." Thomas says that when she tells these stories to children, they like to get right into the action, flapping their arms like Buzzard's wings and jumping like Frog in the story titled "Why Frog Got Eyes and Mole Got Tail." It's a sure bet that What's the Hurry, Fox? will be a popular title for children and parents everywhere.

Deborah Hopkinson is the author of many children's books, including A Packet of Seeds, reviewed in this issue.

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What’s the Hurry, Fox?

What’s the Hurry, Fox?

By Zora Neale Hurston
ISBN 9780060006433

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