When Birds Could Talk and Bats Could Sing

by Virginia Hamilton and Barry Moser

Unforgettable winged creatures practically fly off the pages of this elegant volume.... read more

Unforgettable winged creatures practically fly off the pages of this elegant volume. Virginia Hamilton has selected and retold eight African-American folktales first written down in heavy black dialect by folklorist Martha Young, who collected the stories from former slaves on her father's plantation in Alabama. In each of the brief stories, the creatures behave like humans with human weaknesses: pride, selfishness, and just plain nosiness. The stories are written in a prose style known as cante fable, meaning that songs and verses are woven into the story and each one ends with a moral. The characters themselves are brilliantly characterized by a combination of Hamilton's perfectly crafted dialogue and Barry Moser's stunning watercolor paintings. In spite of the human attributes Moser gives Miss Bat and the birds through the facial expressions and the hats they wear, we never forget that they are creatures of the sky, thanks largely to a page design which causes viewers' eyes to sweep upward as they follow the characters' antics, making an inevitable fall from grace all the more dramatic. Honor Book, 1996 CCBC Newbery Award Discussion (Ages 7-12)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 1996

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