Book: The Storyteller
Author: Evan Turk
Age Range: 5-10
When The Storyteller turned up at my house I nearly set it aside for when my daughter is older. It's long and text dense, and I wasn't sure if she would appreciate it. But I figured I'd wait and see, and left it on the kitchen table for her. A couple of days later she asked me to read it to her, because her babysitter had already read it to her, and it was "A really good book." Long, yes. Mythic, vs. tied to ordinary suburban existence, yes. But The Storyteller is also "really good" and well able to hold a six-year-old's attention. I agree with her assessment.
The Storyteller is a nested tale of stories within stories about Morocco, magic, and the desert. It begins:
"Long, long ago, like a pearl around a grain of sand, the fertile Kingdom of Morocco formed near the edge of the great, dry Sahara. It had fountains of cool, delicious water to quench the dangerous third of the desert, and storytellers to bring the people together."
What right-minder lover of stories would not want to continue reading after that? What follows is a tale of a thirsty young boy looking for water during a drought. He finds an old man who tells him a story, the hearing of which fills the boy's bowl with water. But the story contains the seeds of previous stories, and the boy returns day after day, as the old man fills in the details, and magically fills his bowl with water. Then, when a danger approaches, the boy uses the power of story to help his people.
Different colored fonts are used to distinguish visually between the different stories within stories. This is nice, but I didn't find it necessary - the book was not difficult to follow. There is certainly an old-fashioned, epic sort of tone. Like this:
"Many years ago, my great-great-grandmother's great-great-grandmother was a carpet weaver. Our village again had a terrible drought, and people had to travel far to find water.
One day, a very old woman walked into the weaver's home with a bundle wrapped in cloth."
Just as young readers will be swept away by the story, they'll also delight in Turk's lush illustrations, "rendered in water-soluble crayon, colored drawing pencils, inks, indigo, sugared green tea, a heat gun, and fire." They look like old parchments, with a mix of bold inks and more muted colors to help visually convey the layers of the stories. A page in which a carpet is woven looks like a carpet itself, complete with a collection of different geometric borders. Other pages have carpet-like borders, too. The Storyteller seems ancient, and yet timeless.
The Storyteller is a gorgeous and compelling picture book that would be welcome in any library serving elementary school children. While it's a bit dense for preschoolers, it is sure to captivate older kids, and their parents. Highly recommended.
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (@SimonKids)
Publication Date: June 28, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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