Virginia Hamilton, storyteller, lecturer, and biographer, was born and raised in Yellow Springs, OH, which is said to be a station on the Underground Railroad. Her grandfather settled in the village after escaping slavery in Virginia. She was educated at Antioch College and Ohio State University and did further study in literature and the novel at the New School for Social Research. Virginia was the first African American woman to win the Newbery Award, for M.C. Higgins the Great. Since then, she has won three Newbery Honors and three Coretta Scott King Awards. In 1992, Virginia was awarded the Hans Christian Andersen Medal, which is presented every two years by the International Board on Books for Young People, in recognition of her entire body of work. Virginia writes first for the pleasure of using words and language to evoke characters and their world, and in historical accounts such as Anthony Burns, the lives of real people. Secondly, Hamilton writes to entertain, to inspire in people the desire to read on and on good books made especially for them.
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.