This exquisite and complex story is an original folktale that celebrates the importance of culture and storytelling.
by Evan Turk
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2016
Picture book, fiction, diversity
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations, color map ; 29 cm
Interest Level: grades 2-5; Reading Level: 4.2
4 out of 5 stars
Evan Turk has crafted an original folktale that is set in Morocco, on the edge of the Saharan desert. The story opens in modern times, with people becoming busier and less connected. Additionally, the life-giving water in the fountains starts to dry up. A thirsty young boy searches the city for water, and comes across an old storyteller, who tells him, “Sit down, my boy, and your thirst shall be quenched.” As the boy listens to the old man’s stories, his bowl fills with water. The storyteller always leaves the boy wanting to know more, which he must wait to hear the next day.
The stories that the boy hears are actually stories nested within stories that tell about a never-ending magical blue thread that is the source of water for the people. It takes very alert readers to keep the nested stories straight in their mind and not get them confused. Turk has crafted nested borders for his pages that can help distinguish which level of the story the reader is hearing.
Ultimately, the Sahara threatens the drought-stricken modern city, and the boy must distract the sandstorm by telling the stories he has just heard. The boy’s storytelling not only distracts the great Sahara, but also brings water back to the fountains, as more and more citizens gather around to hear the stories of the young hero.
An Author’s Note in the back of the book begins with this quote:
When a storyteller dies, a library burns.
–old Moroccan saying
Evan Turk has crafted a story that uses water for a metaphor for the storytelling culture of Morocco. Culture dries up when storytelling disappears. There has recently been a push in Morocco to revitalize this ancient craft and maintain their storytelling traditions.
The book’s illustrations are a combination of rich blues and browns. Turk’s images appear both modern and ancient at the same time. For example, a motor scooter and horse-drawn carriage are in the same scene; some characters are more ancient looking, and others quite modern.
The back of the book contains information for further reading about weaving and storytelling in Morocco.
I gave the book 4 out of 5 stars because the illustrations are a perfect fit for the tone of the story. The tale itself is unique and speaks to the need to retain ones culture. This is a well-crafted story, but because of its complex nesting of stories, it has a somewhat limited audience.
The book has a companion website at http://thestorytellerbook.com/ which offers further reading and background material.
There is also a book trailer: