Check out the best tall tales on Epic!
Legendary heroes and heroines (both real people and fictional), exaggerated feats and exploits, thrilling events that are impossible to believe (because they’re well, actually impossible). These are just some of the unique traits that make tall tales such a fun piece of the folk storytelling tradition all over the world. This list of children’s books celebrates some of the best American tall tales available on our platform for you and your little ones to enjoy.
Check out the epic stories of these folk heroes below!
Best Tall Tales on Epic
Written by: Cari Meister
Illustrated by: Victor Rivas
Born with a 10-pound hammer in his fist and legs the size of tree trunks, this legendary strong man was known as the fastest steel driver on the railroad. In a time when workers were competing with the newly invented steam drill for speed, legend has it that John Henry made a risky wager to save his fellow workers’ jobs. He would single-handedly clear more rock than a steam drill in one day.
Faster than a jackrabbit and unwilling to quit, John Henry comes out on top. And in the end he saves the jobs of many railroad laborers.
By: Cari Meister
Illustrated by: Peter George
A fixture in American folktales, this is the story of Davy Crockett. Back when “the West was as wild as a headless chicken on a Saturday night,” his family left their home in Tennessee. Then they made their way westward by covered wagon.
Some folks say he fell from the sky with a rifle on his back, a raccoon skin hat and a smile on his face. That boy was Davy Crockett, best known for hunting, his service in Congress and fighting and dying in the Battle of the Alamo.
This picture book follows Davy as he rescues a steam boat from Ole Snag the gator on the Mississippi River, solidifying his legacy as a symbol for mastering the wilderness during the days of the American frontier.
Written by: M. J. York
Illustrated by: Michael Garland
Raised by coyotes and known for wrestling bear cubs as a toddler, this is the story of legendary cowboy Pecos Bill.
Alongside his beloved horse, Widow-Maker, Bill is a fictional creation of short story writer Edward S. O’Reilly. Legend has it he was born in 1830s Texas and fell out of his family’s covered wagon near the Pecos River. He’s known for wild feats such as lassoing a cyclone, wrangling monsters and shooting stars out of the sky. But ultimately, his story is an exciting, if exaggerated, representation of ranch life in the early American west.
Written by: Bobbi Miller
Illustrated by: Megan Lloyd
Meet Miss Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind, also known as the wife of Davy Crockett. She could rope a hurricane, outspin a steam mill and knit a shawl with one hand—all while milking a cow, churning butter and baking bread at the same time. She could even blow out the moonlight in a single breath.
In this tale, the legendary Sally Ann wrestles a “mean as tarnation” panther, Fireeyes, only for the two to win each other’s respect and become the best of friends. It’s the perfect story for showing that a girl can accomplish anything a boy can, and that friendships can be sparked in the most unlikely of ways.
By: Robin Koontz
This vibrantly illustrated book is about famed logger and lumberjack Paul Bunyan and his trusty sidekick Babe the blue ox. It begins when the pair are summoned to move the houses of Shadowtown to the sunny side of the mountain. There’s just one problem: Babe doesn’t know her own strength and flings the houses into the fields. So one little boy, Ezra, comes up with a solution.
This book is the perfect way to introduce five and six year-olds to an engaging piece of American lore, with bonus activities to help improve vocabulary and reading comprehension to boot.
Written by: Anastasia Suen
Illustrated by: Ed Myer
In this silly Read-To-Me book, kids can giggle and sing along as they learn about American pioneer Johnny Appleseed. This legend is inspired by the life of John Chapman, who brought the first apple trees to Pennsylvania, Ontario, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and what would one day become West Virginia.
Known for his kindness, generosity and conservation leadership, his story symbolizes peace and good will on the frontier.
By: George Bridge
Illustrated by: Bea Moritz
“The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” Less a tall tale and more of a cautionary one, the story of “Chicken Little” is inextricably baked into the fabric of contemporary American folklore. With hilarious illustrations, this retelling follows Chicken Little and his feathered friends as they panic over the sky that (they assume) is falling to pieces. Yet eventually Chicken Little learns there’s nothing to be afraid of. The moral? In any given situation, it’s probably a good idea to find out the whole story before freaking out.
Anansi the Spider (Audiobook)
By: Gerald McDermott
This folk tale has the distinction on this list of hailing from West Africa. In this traditional story, the mischievous, wise and lovable spider Anansi sets out on a long journey. In an engaging narrative that follows authentic Ashanti rhythms, it tells the story of how Anansi is saved from his foes by his sons, and how he calls upon Nyame, the God of All Things, to solve this predicament in a touching and resourceful way.
Here’s a title not on our platform that we think belongs on this list, available on Amazon:
The Lion and the Mouse
By Jerry Pinkney
Ages: 8 & under
This Caldecott Award-winning and New York Times best-selling picture book is a wordless adaptation of one of Aesop’s most beloved fables: “The Lion and the Mouse.” When a ferocious lion decides to spare the life of a mouse that he’d planned to eat, the mouse later frees him from a poacher’s trap, proving that no act of kindness goes to waste.