It’s hard for me to rate a book of folklore. Its primary purpose is to preserve stories and information about a culture, rather than to entertain, and perhaps the most important target audience here is people of Cherokee heritage who may not have much connection to traditional culture. Not being one of those people, I can’t claim that my review will reflect others’ experiences with the book.
The author, Christopher Teuton, is a professor of Cherokee descent who spends time on tribal lands in Oklahoma with four older men who jokingly call themselves the “Turtle Island Liars’ Club.” The four are involved in various ways in the preservation of traditional culture, and are all storytellers. The book is built of many short sections, interspersing stories which range from less than a page to a few pages in length with sections in which the group hangs out and discusses various aspects of Cherokee culture. The stories range from legends to accounts from the lives of the storytellers and their families, and while some read like traditional tales, others clearly have had modern updating: animals encounter steel traps or become roadkill, for instance. But there’s no pretense at telling an authoritative version of any of the tales; in discussing their art, the storytellers make clear that the stories are alive and changing, that different people tell different versions and they even tell different versions themselves to different audiences. And in fact I have encountered different versions of a couple of these stories elsewhere.
I found the stories to be interesting and enjoyable, but Teuton made an excellent decision in choosing to include more than that; the short topical sections in between provide grounding and context, and I generally found the factual information interesting. Most books of folklore seem to be compilations of stories without telling readers anything about the storytellers, their lives, or their wider culture, beyond what one might glean from the tales they tell. This one provides a much fuller picture of Cherokee life, at least as seen through the eyes of these four men.
The fact that a fairly small number of voices – of men from roughly the same generation with similar life experiences – make up the book is a drawback. Another, at least in my eyes, is the way the author renders speech: at times it is almost like reading a transcript, with the “ums,” the people interjecting with “yeah” or “mmhm,” the sentences that trail off without communicating anything. Journalists clean up speech to make it more concise and avoid making their subjects look dumb, and Teuton doesn’t explain why he chose not to, though he does discuss other decisions about how to shape the book. Fortunately though, he’s talking to people who are used to public speaking, and the storytellers’ voices along with the brevity of the sections mitigate the dryness of the author’s writing, which is quite evident in his introduction.
Overall, I found this book engaging, and readers with a particular interest in Cherokee culture or folklore will likely enjoy it. A general audience may become more impatient, though there is certainly wisdom about life in the book that applies regardless of culture. Also, four of the stories are transcribed in both Cherokee and English, which is fun.
A fun, cute book. It is fast paced and has a unique writing style. I found the names of the Moon characters to be a little silly, but in a good way. I have to wonder if the author knew about the Harvest Moon game franchise when they named a character that. Also the three dogs named Manny, Moe and Jack made me laugh out loud. Did the author see a Pep Boys commercial and get inspired or was the names a 100% coincidence? Funny, none the less.
I like how Honey is inspired to start a dog walking service after recusing Stormy. Honey seems to be a likeable character and I did enjoy how she got along with her family. I liked the hints that her Turtle backpack might be magical, or is it her imagination? I love the friendship between the three main girls and also how it ended with a possible 4th friend.
One thing that I wish would be different is more description. There seemed to be a lot of telling instead of showing, which could make some of the story a little lackluster. However, I will admit there were several times where I find myself smiling. There is something going for it, and I hope the author continues to write stories for children and adults alike.
Overall, I enjoyed reading this book.
Disclaimer: I received this from Netgally in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for the chance to read this!
This picture book for 5-9 year olds is about a turtle named Thomas who lives in a idyllic pond with his sister and mother. All is quiet until one day when Thomas ventures too close to a forbidden region, which sweeps him over a waterfall. He then battles the forces of nature, which wrestle him away from his family. How he struggles to overcome obstacles to reunite with his sister and mother constitutes the rest of the adventure. The book is a story of obedience, determination and faith.
Beautifully illustrated by artist Nathaniel Dailey, The Adventure of Thomas the Turtle is written in the tradition of great children classics of which The Tale of Peter the Rabbit comes to mind. It is a touching story that conveys a sense of meanings on multiple levels. Parents will want to read and re-read The Adventure of Thomas the Turtle to their children as a way of illustrating the value of family unity.