America’s first superheroes lived in the Midwest. There was Nanabozho, the Ojibway man-god who conquered the King of Fish, took control of the North Wind, and inspired Longfellow’s The Song of Hiawatha. Paul Bunyan, the larger-than-life North Woods lumberjack, created Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes with his giant footsteps. More recently, Pittsburgh steelworker Joe Magerac squeezed out rails between his fingers, and Rosie the Riveter churned out the planes that won the world’s most terrible war.

In Folktales and Legends of the Middle West, Edward McClelland collects these stories and more. Readers will learn the sea shanties of the Great Lakes sailors and the spirituals of the slaves following the North Star across the Ohio River, and be frightened by tales of the Lake Erie Monster and Wisconsin’s dangerous Hodag. A history of the region as told through its folklore, music, and legends, this is a book every Midwestern family should own.

Edward McClelland is the author of How to Speak Midwestern. His writing has appeared in publications such as the Columbia Journalism ReviewLos Angeles TimesNew York Times, and Salon. He lives in Chicago.


“An inherently fascinating history of the region as told through its folklore, music, and legends, Folktales and Legends of the Middle West features the occasional black-and-white illustrations of David Wilson. Entertaining, informative, appealing, charming, and a thoroughly compelling read from first page to last.”

Midwest Book Review

“Much of the pleasure in these tales might be called ‘truthful hyperbole’ today. But instead of simply declaring feats of strength or eating to have been ‘the best,’ the stories craft unforgettable images.”

St. Louis Post-Dispatch