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American Folklore Society honors Hicks, Ebel

Article Published: Nov. 19, 2009 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
American Folklore Society honors Hicks, Ebel

(left) Julia Ebel and (right) Orville Hicks

The American Folklore Society has awarded the 2009 Aesop Accolade to the book Jack Tales and Mountain Yarns as Told by Orville Hicks. Jack Tales is transcribed and edited by Julia Taylor Ebel, illustrated by Sherry Jenkins Jensen. Dr. Thomas McGowan, of Appalachian State University, contributed the afterword.

The Aesop Accolade recognizes juvenile and young adult books that "reflect the high artistic standards of the best of children's literature" and enhance the reader's understanding of folklore.

The Aesop Award Committee congratulated Orville Hicks and Julia Taylor Ebel "on this fine anthology of masterful storytelling that presents Jack Tales, riddles, jokes..., and tall tales, with a personal twist." The committee chair added, "We hope this collection will open young minds to mountain storytelling."
The American Folklore Society said, "Julia Taylor Ebel captures the enticingly natural and compelling style of this celebrated traditional storyteller. Hicks, recipient of the North Carolina Heritage Award in 2007, follows in the footsteps of a family rich in the oral storytelling tradition, his tales inspired by his mother Sarah's many tellings and those of his second cousin, Ray Hicks, among many others in the Beech Mountain region.

"In this collection of Hicks' personal and retold tales, his words have been carefully transcribed from recordings of his oral tellings. Hicks' straightforward style and cadence of telling is cleverly captured in the layout of text in Ebel's anthology, giving the reader a greater sense of his vocal rhythm and audience connection. Readers will find themselves sensing that they are sitting on the front porch with Hicks, listening to the memories, songs and misadventures of his youth, tall tales wound with truth, and the rollicking escapades of the cunning Jack in Hicks' unique retellings of many popular Appalachian Jack tales."

The society continued, "Anyone wishing to learn more about the art of traditional storytelling will learn much from this volume, not only from the manner in which the stories are told but also from the descriptions of Hicks' life influenced by the storytelling tradition of the Appalachian Mountains. The stories will certainly prove to be popular with young listeners as the transcriptions offer an outstanding read-aloud opportunity."

Author Julia Ebel closely worked with Orville Hicks in transcribing the tales in Jack Tales and Mountain Yarns. Sherry Jensen's delicate pencil sketches are both sensitive and playful as they depict the stories.

Ebel has included educational material, such as a glossary, a discussion of folklore in the making, and a study guide with prompts for further thought. In addition, an original story by Orville Hicks appears in his handwriting at the end of the book.

Julia Taylor Ebel lives in Jamestown, N.C., but often spends time in Watauga County, where she found inspiration for five of her six books. For more information about her books, visit

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