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Deidre's Book Reviews

Whoppers
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Schwartz, Alvin. 1975. WHOPPERS TALL TALES AND OTHER LIES. Illustrated by

              Glen Rounds. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott.  ISBN: 0-397-31575-9

 

 

Alvin Schwartz’s Whoppers is a book full of tall tales or as some may put it – lies.  The book is separated into six categories; Ordinary things, Fancy clothes and narrow escapes, Animals and insects, Putrefactions and other wonders, and The weather.  All one hundered forty five of the tall tales featured in the book have been collected from American folklore.  The interesting fact is that not one of these tales has ever happened nor could they ever happen. 

 

There is a list of sources and significant variants for most of the tales in the book.  Within the list are names of the collectors and informants.  The author has also included the term, “general” to indicate that the tale is widespread and has been retold by the author.  The introduction of the book, entitled, “Hard Lying,” is where the author, speaking in first person, describes tall tales as lies, whoppers and gallyfloppers.  Schwartz writes about what it take to be a hard liar.     

 

As noted by Tunnel and Jacobs (page 77), exaggeration is the major stylistic element in tall tales.  Whoppers is full of exaggeration.   For example, the book contains the following tale: Another is so tall she gets wet fifteen minutes before anybody else when it rains (page 18).  Of course, it is obvious that no one can be that tall.  These are the types of tales in the ordinary people section of the book. Most of the tales are based on people like fishermen, firemen, and farmers who have some unique, outrageous experience.  The author uses irony when titling the different sections of this book.  Especially with “Ordinary People” – there are anything but ordinary people described in the book.

 

Whoppers is very different from the average picture books and traditional fantasies.  In tall tales, there is no realism or chance of believing they are real.  Some people argue that these types of books are not necessary.  My belief is that the sole purpose of books like Whoppers is just for pure entertainment.  It is very similar to a joke book.  There is no clear relevance to the tales- except to make the reader laugh. 

 

The book is definitely classified as fiction.  The tales are originated form the author’s imagination – even though the settings and other minor details are from the real world (Tunnel and Jacobs, page 66).  A good example of this is the tale about the man who freed a snake from under a rock.  The snake followed the man home and tried to repay the man for his kindness.  The snake tied up a burglar and rattled for the police to help the man. 

 

Even the spelling of some of the words is far-fetched and silly.  In the tale, “A putrified forest,” there is spelled, “thar,” where is “whar,” though is “tho’” and hooray is spelled, “hurraw.”  All of these type of spellings represent the author’s idea that the character speaking in the tale is from the deep, southern Black Hills- where it is often that you may hear this type of southern slang.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Last updated: February 10, 2005

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