Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Children's Book Review: 'Miss Sally Ann and the Panther' retold by Bobbi Miller

Miss Sally Ann and the Panther
retold by Bobbi Miller
Illustrated by Megan Lloyd

In the spirit of Paul Bunyan comes the tall tale of Miss Sally Ann and The Panther. Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind ropes a hurricane and ties it to her spinning wheel to out-spin the steam mill. She knits a shawl with one hand, while the other milks the cow, churns the butter and bakes buttermilk bread. Before going to bed she blows out the moonlight and sings the wolves to sleep.

One morning, while she's out in the woods gathering onions, she encounters Fireeyes the Panther. As Sally Ann admires the panther's black coat, the panther admires the bearskin coat that Sally Ann is wearing, and they both begin to fight for what they want. They wrestle throughout the night until both have to grudgingly admit to the other's fighting skills. They smile at each other and call a truce.

The panther follows Sally Anne home and the two become friends. Fireeyes uses his claws to help her plow the garden and his tail to brush the chimney clean. Sally Ann wraps the panther in her bear skin coat at night before she blows out the moon and they both sing the wolves to sleep.

Miss Sally Ann is a character in the Davy Crockett legends (two sources are cited in the book), and it's refreshing to read a wild west tale that focuses on the strength of a woman. I would have liked to have seen more emphasis on Sally Ann and the panther's exaggerated skills and strengths and less of the story devoted to the power struggle between the two however (which goes on for several pages and doesn't include much of the larger-than-life characteristics that make the rest of the story so engaging). I also found it difficult to pronounce some of the invented superlatives that the author uses (such as “terrifiacious” and “thunderferous”) when reading the book aloud to a first grade class. 

The students didn't seem to mind, however. They commented on the colorful illustrations which capture the characters' expressions, and the evocative name of the panther. They also liked that the wrestling match culminated in Sally Ann and the panther becoming friends at the end. Overall, Miss Sally Ann and The Panther is a fast-paced, action-packed book story that children are likely to enjoy.

Bobbi Miller is a children's book author who has five degrees in writing, two at the graduate level. She loves exploring the American landscape and spinning tall tales. In the spirit of Miss Sally Ann, Bobbi lives in an 1830s reproduction log cabin. Learn more at www.bobbimillerbooks.com.

Megan Lloyd has illustrated more than forty books for children, including Betsy Ross by Becky White. Megan lives on a farm in central Pennsylvania with her husband. Visit her online at www.meganlloyd.com.

Renée Vaillancourt McGrath has worked at Montana Public Radio as a program host since 2002. Her background is in librarianship and she currently works as a freelance editor, blogger, and website developer. Check out more of her book reviews at reneesreads.com.

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