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FIRST FIRE by Nancy Kelly Allen


A Cherokee Folktale

by Nancy Kelly Allen ; illustrated by Sherry Rogers

Pub Date: March 1st, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-62855-207-2
Publisher: Arbordale Publishing

An unsourced Cherokee folk tale tells of the origin of fire.

The story is introduced by a picture of an adult regaling children by the fire; all are clad in buckskin. When a sycamore tree on an island is struck by lightning, the council of animals meets to figure out how to reach it and capture the fire burning there. Each volunteers to carry the fire back, venturing forth one by one. Raven’s white feathers are scorched black; Screech Owl’s eyes are burned red; Racer the snake twists and turns to escape the heat. Finally, Spider spins a bowl on her back and carries a coal back across the water, bringing fire to the animals. The illustrations are large and bold but stiff and amateurish-looking, with many close-ups of animal heads dominated by mouths that gape in terror. The water spider herself may be correctly depicted, but a closing note will only confuse readers by describing three different spiders (and one spiderlike insect) that walk on or swim in water and not telling them which one figures in the story. Information is also included about the Cherokee “then and now,” and fire; none of it is sourced. Although the tale itself is unsourced as well, versions of it are available on the Web.

An earnest effort but unengaging at best.

(Picture book/folk tale. 5-8)