Root, P. (2009). Paula Bunyan. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
A new twist on a tall tale, Paula Bunyan shares the story of famous Paul Bunyan’s younger sister Paula, who isn’t such a little sister since she’s as big as her brother.
This books shares many of Paula’s adventures, but particularly focuses on her love of singing. A love she can’t pursue because her voice is so loud that she shatters peoples windows with her volume. It is only when Paula goes into the woods that she is finally able to sing freely and make friends with the wild animals. But when Paula encounters a portion of the woods being cut down, Paula must confront a problem larger than her that has modern implications.
With this creation of a new character to enter into the stories of America’s past, Root provides equal footing for girls since Paula is just as strong as her brother.
Activities to Do with the Book:
This would be an excellent picturebook to share if a teacher were doing a unit on American history or tall tales. The story does assume that the reader has knowledge of Paul Bunyan and his exploits, so a teacher would have to introduce him first.
Students could create their own characters and tall tales in response to hearing or reading this book.
Also, a number of classic children’s songs are incorporated into the illustrations and could prompt student sing alongs.
On a more serious note, a teacher could talk about webs of relationships among animals and their environment and about deforestation and how it has been a developing problem for over a century.
“Everyone knows about Paul Bunyan, with his woodcutter’s ax and his big blue ox, Babe. But not many people know about Paula Bunyan, his little sister. Maybe “little” isn’t the right word. After all, she was as tall as a pine tree and as strong as a dozen moose.”
“It got so Paula took to humming under her breath instead of singing out loud, just so nobody would holler that she was breaking their windows or chipping their best china.”
“When the bear growled, she growled right back.”
“Now, folks say the mosquitoes up north are mighty bad, and I believe it’s true, because one day a few hungry mosquitoes carried off Paula’s bear.”