Bruchac, Joseph. Talking Leaves. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2016. $16.99. ISBN 9780803735088. 235 pgs. Ages 10+. P7Q8.
Uwahali, age 13, is excited when he learns that his father has returned to their hometown after being away for many years. When he begins hearing rumors that his father (the historical figure Sequoyah, developer of the Cherokee alphabet) is either crazy or a witch, he feels conflicted, but is determined to get to know his father and to try to understand his obsession with strange symbols. After learning that Sequoyah is trying to create a syllabary for the Cherokee language, and to help his people become literate in their own language, he realizes what a powerful and important idea this is. The novel works in Cherokee teaching stories, folklore, and information about the language in an accessible style. It delves into ideas about living without family, sacrificing for things you believe are important, and standing up to dangerous and ignorant people when necessary. At the end of the book, there is a list of the Cherokee alphabet with the corresponding sounds, a glossary, and a list of books for further reading. Verdict: This novel will provide good context for studies about Native American culture and the history of the Cherokee. It’s also an entertaining story and fast read about a young character that middle grade children will identify with.
November 2016 review by Carol Schramm.