Capstone has been doing sets of four fractured fairy tales; so far they’ve done Far Out Fairy Tales with titles like Goldilocks and the Three Vampires, Far Out Fables with The Lion and the Mouse and the Invaders from Zurg, and now they’re tackling folktales. One small quibble—technically, this latest set is tall tales, but clearly they had to stick with the alliteration!
I looked at two titles from this set; Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Whale takes the story of Paul Bunyan under the sea. Along with his best friend Babe, Paul Bunyan performs feats of strength, creates natural landmarks under the sea, like mountains and trenches, and defends the merpeople from mean sharks. He’s got his own fans, worried but loving parents (the king and queen of Atlantis), and eventually decides to move up onto land.
In the second title, Johnny Slimeseed and the Freaky Forest, Johnny Appleseed gets a monstrous makeover. Johnny lives in the town of Nightmare, where all the monsters love to get out and scare people. After all, there’s nothing else to do. But Johnny doesn’t think it’s nice to scare people—if only he could find something that was more fun, everyone would do that instead. As he searches in the human world, he meets Sleeka, a worm from Bugsville, who tells him of a wonderful, slimy tree on an island. After a lengthy search, Johnny discovers one last slimy seed and with plenty of green snot, he’s ready to change his world and cover it in slime!
Both books begin with a cast of characters and end with the original tall tale, a visual comparison of the “twists” in the tale (apple seeds swapped for slime seeds for example), and visual questions, showing panels from the book and asking readers to take a closer look. There are also notes on the authors and a glossary.
The art is done by two different creators; Otis Frampton in Paul Bunyan uses a more classic cartoonish style, using lots of blues and earth colors, and showing characters with big cartoon eyes, curly hair, and exaggerated expressions. These are cartoon mermaids, not the beautiful or dangerous mermaids of older stories, and Paul Bunyan combines a stocking cap, plaid shirt, suspenders and belt with his fishy tail. Berenice Munz in Johnny Slimeseed looks more manga-inspired, showing characters with spiky hair, manga-style eyes, and lots of slick, digitized color. The slime is sparkly and goopy and the colors are wild purples and greens. Everything has an extra shimmer, from Johnny’s metal pot hat to his green snot explosions.
The additional resources will make these useful in a classroom setting, especially if teachers are studying tall tales. Kids who have enjoyed the previous titles in these collections will be eager to take a look at these, although they include more exaggerated humor and gross stuff. These would make good additional purchases for a school or library wanting to add to their graphic novel collection or fill out resources for studying tales of different kinds.
Far Out Folktales series (Capstone)
Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Whale
By Penelope Gruber
Art by Otis Frampton
Johnny Slimeseed and the Freaky Forest
By Stephanie True Peters
Art by Berenice Muniz
NFNT Age Recommendation: Easy Readers (5-9), Middle Grade (7-11)
Series Reading Order