The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales Book Poster Image

The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales



Folktales full of humor and history.

What parents need to know

Positive messages
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Separation and isolation; other characters, witchcraft, animals, and even the Devil himself threaten characters. Violence and death loom.

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Drinking, drugs, & smoking
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Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that these engaging folktales contain nothing of concern.

What's the story?

The theme of freedom prevails in these twenty-four folktales, most of which came to this country on a "slave boat out of Africa." Each story tells of a loss--of family, beliefs, customs, and language--but also celebrates the rich heritage and spirit that continues despite these losses.

The author retells two dozen black American folktales centered around several themes. In the first section, which includes animal tales, characters such as Bruh Rabbit and Tappin the land turtle take on the characteristics of people met in this new country. Fanciful fairy tales and stories of the supernatural are also included, along with accounts of slavery and efforts to gain freedom.

Is it any good?


This anthology of stories told by and about African-American slaves, and accounts from their history, should be required reading for anyone studying American history. Animal tales based on stories brought over from Africa by the slaves' forbears communicate through the antics of their clever underdog heroes the slaves' desires for freedom and triumph over their masters, while other fanciful stories convey hope for the future.

Virginia Hamilton aptly captures the longing and the loss, the hope and the hurt, that carried these stories (often passed on orally) through the generations. The black-and-white drawings that illustrate some selections are rendered in a unique style. The compositions are bold, and some elements break free from their borders, echoing story themes. Moods and feelings are captured with shades and shadows.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the power of storytelling. These stories are more than just mere fantasy: What did they mean to the storytellers and the listeners?

Book details

Author:Virginia Hamilton
Illustrators:Diane Dillon, Leo Dillon
Book type:Fiction
Publication date:January 1, 1985
Number of pages:168
Publisher's recommended age(s):4 - 7
Award:Coretta Scott King Medal and Honors

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Kid, 12 years old March 31, 2012


I think that this book is suitable for children, because though there is whipping in it, it shows the reality of slaves back then. Also I assume that kids are studying about slaves in school, so I think that this book would give a good impression on them.
What other families should know
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