The folktales collected by Joel Chandler Harris from former slaves at the turn-of-the-century constitute a valuable contribution to African-American folklore. However, their usefulness has been weakened by problems with the heavy dialect with which they were written and with the narrator, Uncle Remus. Margaret Wise Brown's Brer Rabbit: Stories from Uncle Remus (Harper, 1941; o.p.) and Ennis Rees' Brer Rabbit and His Tricks (1967; o.p.) and More of Brer Rabbit's Tricks (1968; o.p., both Scott), all of which eliminated Uncle Remus, are excellent versions, but all, unfortunately, are out-of-print. This book steps in to fill the void left by those books. It is a retelling of six stories found in Chase's The Complete Tales of Uncle Remus (Houghton, 1955). These retellings are as spirited as the originals but without their drawbacks. They are written in standard English, which eliminates the pain of trying to figure out what all these "Bimebys" mean. Also, Uncle Remus is nowhere in sight to detract from the lively carryings on of Brer Rabbit and friends...If ever an Index of Forbidden Books was necessary, that time is now, and these gutted versions of Uncle Remus' Tales Not Told By Uncle Remus belong at the top.
This picture book retelling should serve as a good introduction for younger children to this important piece of American folk culture. Certainly it's the best of all the editions now in print, and one that should be treasured.
24 March 2011
Uncle Remus is Not Expendable.
In browsing for a nice gift for the baptism of a good friend's first child, I came across this monstrosity and found it necessary to share with you, that we all might stare open-mouthed together: