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Tall Tale Heroes

Looking for some high-quality tall tale picture books and read-alouds? Unfortunately, not all of these heroes have their stories available in-print. Check your public library for out of print editions, or browse used book stores.

The Mary Pope Osborne book American Tall Tales is one of my favorite tall tale read-alouds. It includes several of the tales on the list below. The stories are short enough to read aloud in about 15 minutes. I especially love the colloquialisms and the exaggerations!

If you are an aspiring children’s book author, we really need some new tall tale picture books! The majority of the picture books–even for well-known heroes like Paul Bunyan and Johnny Appleseed–are older titles that are either out-of-print or available only in e-book or paperback. I think we’d all agree that $569.83 is a bit pricey for a library hardcover of a Johnny Appleseed book.

Tall tales are a curriculum requirement for any school in the US that uses Common Core, TEKS, or the Virginia SOLs. That covers the vast majority of US public schools. Let’s get some new tall tales out there, authors and publishers! Maybe my “Watson the Friendly Giant” story from third grade is worth a second look…

(all of the below images are Amazon Affiliate links)

 American Tall Tale Heroes

  • Paul Bunyan
  • Johnny Appleseed
  • Davy Crockett
  • Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind Crockett
  • John Henry
  • Annie Oakley
  • Pecos Bill
  • Slue-Foot Sue
  • Daniel Boone
  • Kissimmee Pete
  • Calamity Jane
  • Molly Pitcher
  • Blackbeard
  • Casey Jones
  • Captain Stormalong
  • Big Sam
  • Johnny Kaw
  • Prickly Rose
  • Captain Martin Van Buren Bates
  • Mike Fink

(all of the below images are Amazon Affiliate links)


I know little of tall tales outside the USA–only Sam McGee and Baron Munchausen are familiar to me. Many tall tales seem to be mixed up with fairytales and folklore, which are not exactly the same thing. If you know some non-USA tall tales that should be on this list, please comment below or email me at leigh[at]readerpants[dot]net.

Canadian Tall Tale Heroes

  • Big Joe Mufferaw
  • Sam McGee
  • Johnny Chinook

Australian Tall Tale Heroes

  • Rodney Ansell
  • Big Bill
  • Crooked Mick

European Tall Tale Heroes

  • Toell the Great (Estonia)
  • The Irish Rover (Ireland)
  • Baron Munchausen (Germany)

Modern Tall Tale Heroes

  • Gravity (The Legend of Gravity by Sally Palmer comes out in Sept. 2021)
  • Library Lil
  • Dona Flor
  • Pancho Bandito


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