A tribute to Appalachian storytelling legend Ray Hicks.

Hicks came from an impoverished family in the Blue Ridge Mountains and loved listening to his grandfather’s traditional Jack tales. Growing up steeped in a culture of oral storytelling and folk music, Hicks eagerly shared the stories that meant so much to him with schoolmates, the people he worked with, his own children, and, eventually, wider audiences at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee. His talents made him a renowned and treasured teller during his lifetime, recognized for his achievements by then–Vice President George H.W. Bush, but he was happiest with his familiar rural life and content living in the place he knew best. Hicks is most worthy of a biographical treatment for young readers, but the main body of this work is devoid of the context that would pique readers’ interest, given the lack of tension in the plot. Those who read the author’s note will learn where he lived (North Carolina), when (1922-2003), and that the Jack tales he told—like his distinctive regional dialect—were part of his family’s cultural heritage extending back to the British Isles. The bright, gently surreal, dioramalike illustrations feel sterile and do not convey the rich texture of the mountain setting or life of a man who was deeply attuned to the natural world around him. With the exception of Hicks’ racially diverse Jonesborough audience, they depict an all-White cast. (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-22.8-inch double-page spreads viewed at 46.9% of actual size.)

Fails to do justice to a master spinner of tales.

(Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: today

ISBN: 978-1-4788-6966-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Reycraft Books

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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