The Invention of an American Legend
by Noah Van Sciver
With stories and art by Marlena Myles
Introduction by Lee Francis IV
Postscript by Deondre Smiles
Toon Graphics, 2023. 48 pages.
Review written December 1, 2023, from a library book
The bulk of this book is the graphic novel story of Paul Bunyan and his blue ox Babe — but this story goes further and shows us an advertising man with a lumber company making up the tale, exaggerating other lumberjack tales, in order to make their company look like heroes for clearing the old growth forests that used to blanket North America.
Set in 1914 on a train in Minnesota, there’s a delay in the journey and an ad man from the lumber companies starts telling the tall tales of Paul Bunyan, mesmerizing the other passengers as they wait for the train to start again.
But in this version, we see that a slick ad man is inventing the stories. And he gets some pushback from people on the train who saw acres and acres of mighty forest cut down. The land is laid bare, and the lumber companies simply continued to move further west.
The other people listed on the title page are Indigenous creators whose stories and art appear before and after the main narrative. They give more context about how those same lumber companies pushed out Indigenous peoples to get access to the trees.
Put together, it’s a thought-provoking and moving story that shows how much more there is to the tall tales I heard as a kid.
Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/paul_bunyan.html
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