The Story of Paul Bunyan, by Barbara Emberley, illustrated by Ed Emberley (AMMO Books, 2015)

What the book’s about

In The Story of Paul Bunyan, flavorful prose and bold woodcuts tell of folklore legend, Paul Bunyan—a gentle giant who could “squeeze water out of a boulder, and drive stumps into the ground with his bare fists.” Barbara and Ed Emberley bring this character to life with humorous illustrations and a storyteller’s tone that makes you feel like you’re sitting around a campfire listening. Tall tales about the creation of the Mississippi River, the clearing of Iowa and Kansas for corn and wheat, and Paul’s discovery of Babe the Blue Ox incorporate US geography and elements of early American life.

Two Activities for kids pre-kindergarten through 3rd grade and 2nd through 3rd grade

Activity 1: Landmark Tall Tales

For kids pre-kindergarten through 3rd grade


  • Pencils
  • Paper
  • Colored pencils or markers
  • For expansion with online searching demo, access to web with suitable monitor or projector and screen


After reading The Story of Paul Bunyan, talk with kids about other American natural landmarks, such as the Grand Canyon, the Florida Everglades, the Mojave Desert, the Great Lakes, and the volcano Mt. St. Helens. Be sure to encourage discussion around one that is relatively local or about which several of the kids have some experience visiting. You can also use the National Park Service’s National Natural Landmarks Sites list, either before sharing the activity with the group or, with older children, as a demonstration of web searching for such discoveries.

After the discussion, invite kids to create their own tall tales about how different American natural landmarks were formed. They can illustrate important scenes from their tales using colored pencils or markers. They can also express their tales as comics, using speech and thought bubbles and showing the action scenes in panels.

Dramatic extension option

As an extension, kids can act out their tall tales and videotape them!

Activity 2: You Must Be Kidding

For 2nd and 3rd grades


  • Pencils
  • Paper
  • Colored pencils or markers


Discuss folk tales and how they’re often passed down orally and often use hyperbole to get a point across. Read The Story of Paul Bunyan and ask kids to identify examples of exaggeration and write them down (e.g.,“A man so big, he used to comb his long beard with an old pine tree he yanked right out of the ground.” Or, “The flapjack griddle was so big, it took three sharp-eyed men four days to look across it, and it took six men three days to skate around it, with hog fat strapped to their shoes, to get it greased.”). Divide kids into groups to brainstorm their own creative exaggerations. You can use the following prompts as examples:

Paul Bunyan was so strong . . .

Paul Bunyan was so tough . . .

Paul Bunyan was so hungry . . .

Paul Bunyan was so happy . . .

Paul Bunyan was so excited . . .

Paul Bunyan was so sad . . .

You can also discuss similes and metaphors and how they also can be used as exaggerations (e.g.,“He was as fast as lightning.” “He cried a river of tears.”).

Kids can make up their own similes and metaphors and illustrate them. Display these in a group gallery.

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