TALKING LEAVES by Joseph Bruchac


Age Range: 9 - 12
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A boy grapples with the return of his father, Sequoyah, and the creation of a Cherokee syllabary.

Bruchac reimagines a pivotal moment in Tsalagi (Cherokee) history through the eyes of a boy on the cusp of manhood. Uwohali’s father, Sequoyah, has returned from the West with a new wife and a daughter. Raised by his mother and uncles, Uwohali struggles between his longing to reconnect with his father and his loyalty to his mother’s clan. Complicating matters are the rumors that Sequoyah practices black magic. Drawn by the desire to learn something useful from his father, Uwohali reacquaints himself with Sequoyah. His father wishes to save Tsalagi tradition by creating a syllabary similar to the whites’ “talking leaves.” Soon Uwohali burns with the same desire as his father. He and his family must work together to convince the Tsalagi to adopt Sequoyah’s syllabary in order to preserve their culture and identity. Bruchac gives readers a vivid look into the life of a Cherokee boy in 1821. His extensive research is evidenced by details such as Tsalagi women’s prominent social status and a survivor’s retelling of the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. Themes of preserving identity and culture through both spoken and written language will appeal to readers of all ages.

A vivid retelling of a pivotal time for the Cherokee nation. (cast of characters, afterword, printed syllabary, glossary, further reading) (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 23rd, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-8037-3508-8
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Dial
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2016


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