February 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Talking Leaves by Joseph Bruchac | SLJ Audio Review

Get the latest SLJ reviews every month, subscribe today and save up to 35%.

redstarBRUCHAC, Joseph. Talking Leaves. 4 CDs. 4:35 hrs. Listening Library. Aug. 2016. $35. ISBN 9780451485717. digital download.

au-bruchac-talkingleavesGr 4-7 –Many of the people in 13-year-old Uwohali’s Cherokee village are whispering about his father, Sequoyah. Sequoyah has just returned from a six-year stay in Arkansas, and he spends all his time writing strange symbols on paper and scratching marks in the dirt. People whisper that Sequoyah must be crazy, and they fear his strange marks are a form of witchcraft. These murmurings are difficult for Uwohali to hear, since what he wants more than anything is to forge a bond with his father. When he eventually works up enough courage to approach his father, Uwohali discovers the symbols actually represent 86 sounds in the Cherokee syllabary Sequoyah has created. Believing in the importance of the Cherokees having their own written language to hold on to history and stories, Sequoyah is on a mission to create a written language that does not rely on the white man’s letters. When Uwohali finally understands the importance of his father’s vision and the impact it will have on his community, he is eager to help. But convincing their friends and neighbors doesn’t prove easy, and Uwohali must work hard to avoid danger to both himself and his family. Bruchac does a phenomenal job narrating, and his quiet, serious tone is a perfect match for Uwohali’s introspective personality. Hearing the Cherokee words spoken aloud makes the narrative come alive. An afterword provides additional information about the real-life Sequoyah and the legacy of the alphabet he created. VERDICT This title helps readers understand how important language can be to preserving a people’s culture, and it will be a valuable addition to historical fiction collections. [“This is a strong middle grade novel that offers a needed perspective on Cherokee history and the life of a key historical figure”: SLJ 7/16 starred review of the Dial book.]–Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary School, Glen Rock, PA

This review was published in the School Library Journal December 2016 issue.