Booklist Reviews

/*Starred Review*/ Gr. 3-9. The stirring title story in the late Virginia Hamilton's 1985 collection of American black folktales is an unforgettable slave escape fantasy, retold here in terse, lyrical prose that stays true to the oral tradition Hamilton knew from her family and her scholarly research. Leo and Diane Dillons' illustrations for the collection were in black and white, but the art here is beautiful full color, in the style of the cover of the collection. The large paintings are magic realism at its finest, with clear portraits showing individuals and the enduring connections between them. The images depict mass cruelty close up, but the faces of the characters Hamilton names are always distinct, even in the packed hold of the slave ships, when those "who could fly" lost their wings. Laboring in the cotton field, Sarah and her baby are whipped by the overseer. When elderly Toby helps them escape, the rhythmic paintings dramatize people flying to freedom, joining hands together in the sky. Each one is an individual, exquisitely (and differently) dressed in traditional African garb, an inspiration to those left behind, who "had only their imaginations to set them free." A final portrait shows Hamilton in kente cloth smiling above a loving family at home. This special picture-book story will be told and retold everywhere. ((Reviewed September 15, 2004)) Copyright 2004 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews

This title story from the late Virginia Hamilton's brilliant collection of American black folktales [cf2]The People Could Fly[cf1] is now reissued as a stand-alone picture book, handsomely illustrated in full color. The Dillons, who also illustrated the original collection, fill the book with powerful images. Copyright 2005 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews

When McGillycuddy the kangaroo arrives on the farm, the animals don't know what to make of her. "'We've never seen a McGillycuddy before,' said the cow. 'What do McGillycuddys do?'" Well, they can hop and jump and bounce and kick. "Huh!... That's all?" The animals aren't impressed. What about making milk, growing wool, laying eggs, and cock-a-doodle-doo-ing for the farmer? McGillycuddy tries to do all these things (oh, how she tries!), "but...McGillycuddy couldn't!" The rhythmic read-aloud text invites participation: preschool listeners will try right along with McGillycuddy to hop and bounce and kick, of course, but also to crow and lay eggs (kids will love that one). Porter's energetic illustrations get an A+ for effort and effect. No kangaroo has ever looked as dejected after each failed attempt or ultimately as proud of herself when her own special talents are the only things that can save her friend the duck from a hungry predator. McGillycuddy could kick the stuffing out of any story hour. Copyright 2005 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews

"They say the people could fly. Say that long ago in Africa, some of the people knew magic. And they would walk up on the air like climbin up on a gate." Hamilton's The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales (1985) won a Coretta Scott King Award, and the Dillons here reissue its heartbreaking title story with gorgeous, all-new, full-color paintings. Legend has it that some people in Africa could fly, but when they were shipped to America as slaves, they shed their black, shiny wings (reflected as feathers on the glossy black endpapers). When a mother and her baby are brutally whipped in the cotton fields, an old slave resurrects his magic and helps her and others fly away, free as birds, leaving the non-magical slaves behind to tell the tale. Like the story, the paintings are both hopeful and somber, and the slaves are as graceful and softly luminous as the slave owners are stiff, pinched, and cruel. A dreamy, powerful picture-book tribute to both Hamilton and the generations-old story. (editor's note, author's note) (Picture book. 9-12) Copyright Kirkus 2004 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews

Resplendent, powerful paintings by these two-time Caldecott-winning artists bring new life to the title story from the late Hamilton's 1985 collection, The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales. Making dramatic use of shadow and light, Leo and Diane Dillon (whose half-tone illustrations also graced the original volume) ably convey the tale's simultaneous messages of oppression and freedom, of sadness and hope. "They say the people could fly. Say that long ago in Africa, some of the people knew magic," opens the narrative, as the full-color artwork reveals elegant, beautifully clothed individuals with feathered wings serenely ascending into the sky. On the following spread, images of the Middle Passage set a fittingly somber tone, depicting Africans who "were captured for Slavery. The ones that could fly shed their wings. They couldn't take their wings across the water on the slave ships. Too crowded, don't you know." The picture-book format allows room for the relationship to develop between Sarah, who labors in the cotton fields with an infant strapped to her back, and Toby, the "old man," who utters the magic African words that give her flight. Toby helps others take flight as well (a stunning image shows seemingly hundreds linking hands and taking to the skies)-and eventually does so himself, sadly leaving some of the captives "who could not fly" behind to "wait for a chance to run." Art and language that are each, in turn, lyrical and hard-hitting make an ideal pairing in this elegant volume that gracefully showcases the talent of its creators. All ages. (Nov.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Publishers Weekly Reviews

Three winners of multiple honors have created this incomparable book. The Dillons illustrate Hamilton's 24 stories with marvelous pictures alive with the spirit of each: sly humor, mystery, pathos and, most powerfully, the human need for freedom. In the author's introduction and notes, we find information on black history, on the original slave storytellers``voices from the past''that include her own ancestors. The stories are given full effect by Hamilton's use of colloquial language, evoking the artless entertainer relating the exploits of ``Bruh Rabbit'' and other animal tricksters. The reader's emotional response, however, is to the artists' depictions and the author's narrative in ``The People Could Fly.'' They are the slaves from Gulla who, according to legend, escape the master's abuse one day. ``They rose on the air. Say they flew away to Free-dom.'' (All ages). Copyright 1985 Cahners Business Information.

Publishers Weekly Reviews

This widely lauded anthology boasts stunning black-and-white artwork and stirringly told stories with such evocative titles as ``The Beautiful Girl of the Moon Tower'' and ``Wiley, His Mama, and the Hairy Man.'' All ages. (Feb.) Copyright 1993 Cahners Business Information.

School Library Journal Reviews

Gr 4-7-Virginia Hamilton's collection of 24 black American folk tales (Knopf, 1985) receive new vitality as an audio presentation. After an informative introduction by the author, the tales are arranged into categories with explanatory notes for each story. In the "Animal Tales" section, Hamilton retells familiar stories about Bruh (Brer) Rabbit who almost always outwits Bear and Fox. There are tales described as real, extravagant, and fanciful, but reality takes a back seat in most of these sometimes scary tales. Struggles between good and evil are included in stories such as "Jack and the Devil" in the "Supernatural" group. Hamilton concludes with "Slave Tales of Freedom" where the title story relates the mythic escape by air of people too long oppressed. Andrew Barnes tells each story with ingenuity, a mix of vocal styles and, occasionally, a pleasant singing voice. Selections are set apart with brief, appropriate music. The cover features artwork by the book's illustrators, Leo and Diane Dillon. This is an enduring, much-honored book based on oral tradition and it returns to its roots in an audio format. Equally enjoyable listened to one story at a time or in its entirety, this is a solid purchase for school and public libraries.-Barbara Wysocki, Cora J. Belden Library, Rocky Hill, CT Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

School Library Journal Reviews

Gr 4-7 The well-known author here retells 24 black American folk tales in sure storytelling voice. In four groupings she presents seven animal tales (including a tar-baby variant); six fanciful ones (including ``Wiley, His Mama, and the Hairy Man'' and a tale of which Harper's Gunniwulf Dutton, 1967 is a variant); five supernatural tales (including variants of the Tailypo, John and the Deviland a wild cautionary tale, ``Little Eight John''); and finally, six slave tales of freedom, closing with the moving title story. Depending on the sources, some of the tales use a modified dialect for flavor; one told with quite a few words of Gullah dialect has a glossary. All are beautifully readable. The book has a bibliography, and comments follow each tale, including one personal note of a family account involving one of her grandfathers. Two other collections of black folk tales, Courlander's Terrapin's Pot of Sense (Holt, 1957; o.p.) and Faulkner's The Days When the Animals Talked (Follett, 1977; o.p.) are both out of print. With the added attraction of 40 bordered full- and half-page illustrations by the Dillonswonderfully expressive paintings reproduced in black and whitethis collection should be snapped up. Ruth M. McConnell, San Antonio Public Library Copyright 1985 Cahners Business Information.