How did Big Sixteen from Mary Calhoun's book of the same name get his nickname?

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kathik | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

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Big Sixteen, by Mary Calhoun is a children's book based on a very old tall tale. Calhoun used earlier versions written by Langston Hughes and Ana Bontemps to inform her own take on the story. The story takes place during slavery, and the young man, Big Sixteen, is so big and strong, his master thinks he can do anything. And, as the story goes, Big Sixteen most definitely can. He reminds the reader of other tall tale heroes like Paul Bunyan or John Henry, as he goes about performing these completely impossible quests. So why is it Big Sixteen is given the name he has? If you read the beginning of the book it tells you: "Now, Big Sixteen was his name, 'cause that was the size of his shoe!" And there you have it!

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