Bruchac, Joseph Talking Leaves, 235 pages. Dial Books (Penguin Young Readers), 2016. $16.99. Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG.
Uwohali's father, Sequoya, has become the target of gossip and fear in his Tsalagi (Cherokee) village since his return from the west. People believe that the symbols and characters Sequoya is creating are a form of witchcraft that will bring nothing good to the people. Uwohali is at first fearful, but when he takes the time to listen to his father's explanation of how a written language of their own could benefit the Cherokee, Uwohali is convinced. The challenge then remains for the family to convince the rest of their tribe before the threats of violence or banishment can be carried out.
I was excited to see an historical fiction novel about Sequoya as it seems a piece of American history that could really use a retelling that kids would be interested in reading. Unfortunately, I do not know that many readers will really enjoy this book as I found the characters fairly flat, the story's "voice" dull, and the book overall pretty boring. The book tells the story but also includes a lot of traditional Cherokee stories and traditions; these were interesting, but also got a little tiresome as the story was so often veering off into storytelling mode. I think this book should be in libraries so students have the option to learn about Sequoya or teachers could use it with a Native American history unit, but on its own merits as a novel it does not have a lot to recommend it.
EL, MS, HS--OPTIONAL. Reviewer: TC