Friday, March 7, 2008

Swamp Angel

A. Title: Swamp Angel

B. Author: Anne Isaacs

C. Illustrator: Paul O. Zelinsky

D. Publisher: Penguin Books Australia Ltd.

E. Genre: Picture Book - Folktale

F. Reading Level: 1-3

G. Awards: Caldecott Honor Book

H. Summary: Swamp Angel is a fun twist on a legend like Paul Bunyan. The book is about a gentle giant that is a woman, Angelica Longrider AKA Swamp Angel, who enters a competition to rid the towns of Tennessee from a bear named Thundering Tarnation. Thundering Tarnation had eaten out storages of food for winter in at least half of Tennessee! Many men signed up to try and defeat Thundering Tarnation, but not one of them could overpower such a massive bear. Then Swamp Angel and Thundering Tarnation get into a wrestling fight that lasts for days and nearly destroys the countryside! Trees fell down left and right, and the two wrestled for so long that they soon fell asleep. The snores from the two of them was enough to continue to knock down trees, and the tree that killed Thundering Tarnation in his sleep was one that fell down from a snore! The meat from the bear was enough to feed the starving people of Tennessee all winter, and Swamp Angel got to keep his fur as a rug. But don't worry Thundering Tarnation isn't forgotten, during the fight he was thrown into the sky and made a lasting impression in the stars as a constellation. The illustrations are oil paintings on cherry, maple, and birch veneers.

I. Response: I really enjoyed Swamp Angel!! I've never even heard of this story, but it's nice to see a women in a position like Paul Bunyan. It's also a story in the Appalachian region! I also love how even though she was larger than life, the people of Tennessee still didn't think that she could take on a bear like Thundering Tarnation... that was a job for a man. But guess who is the only one that can stop the bear, Swamp Angel! Not only is the story fun, it also has a great message: don't let anyone ever tell you what you can and cannot accomplish; if you try hard enough, you can achieve anything! I also absolutely love the way Paul O. Zelinsky illustrated this book. The pictures have great warmth, depth, and detail in them, and I thought it was a great touch since the story took place outside in the Tennessee woods. It's very easy to see why this book is a Caldecott Honor Book, though I think it should have won!

J. Teaching Ideas: Swamp Angel can be used a fun classroom folktale or has a way to teach a moral lesson: never let anyone tell you that you can't achieve your dreams. I found a lesson plan on folktale and folk art that can be taught with Swamp Angel. The lesson plan can be used in the age range of 9+ years old. The lesson includes a hands on experience where the students get to create their own art mimicking the style of Paul O. Zelinsky. There are also many lesson plan connections that could teach characteristics of folk art and/or folktales.

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