Saving Granddaddy’s Stories: Ray Hicks, the Voice of Appalachia

Reycraft. Oct. 2020. 32p. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781478869665.
K-Gr 2–Ray Hicks (1922–2003), a white Appalachian folklorist, grew up hearing stories from his grandfather. As a grown man, he retold his grandfather’s stories and his own to everyone who wanted to listen. The renowned storyteller spent his entire life in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. As a child, he was part of a large, struggling family who farmed, foraged for food, and entertained themselves with stories and homemade music. Eventually, outsiders heard them: Hicks told a “Jack Tale” (original stories passed down through their family) at school. When Hicks was an adult, he traveled to Jonesborough, TN, to participate in the first National Storytelling Festival in 1973. He continued to attend the festival and his star power grew. In 1983, he went to Washington, DC, to accept the National Heritage Award from the National Endowment for the Arts. North Carolina native Hitchcock conveys the subject’s life and experience at a leisurely pace, with an authentic voice. Page’s mixed-media illustrations, crafted from clay, paper, fabric, wire, and plenty of imagination, add to the atmosphere. Hick’s overalls are cut pieces of denim; Granddaddy Ben wears glasses with rims of actual wire, and Jack’s cow appears to be a three-dimensional model. In general, the perspective is distorted in the manner of early paintings.
VERDICT A distinctive biography of a distinctively American voice.

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