THE WORLD BEFORE THIS ONE: A Novel in Legend
Illustrated by Calvin Nicholls
Arthur A. Levine Books,
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A magical coming-of-age novel built from thousands of years of Seneca Legend. Introduction by Seneca Elder Peter Jemison. Ages 9-12.
Crow is a Seneca boy, coming of age in a time of war, in a time before stories. Cast out of the Seneca tribe, Crow and his grandmother struggle merely to find enough food to make it through the harsh winter. Then Crow finds a boulder in the woods that startles him by speaking. The Storytelling Stone tells Crow the great legends of the Seneca - tales of the Long Ago Time, when the Sky Women trod the Above World and a child could alter the ways of a people. Crow comes to realize his own power to effect change and his destiny as a Seneca man. But can a Stone be trusted?
Woven together of vibrant recreations of traditional Iroquois (Seneca) tales from Rafe’s own home ground—Rochester, N.Y.—this novel-length book explores the profound role and transformative power of stories in our lives and communities—and tell lots of good stories! (Rafe has told some of these stories in an actual Iroquois longhouse at Ganondagan, New York State Historic and Sacred Seneca site in Victor, N.Y.).
“Working with a council of Seneca elders, storyteller Martin created a collection of folktales that reads like a novel. After being shunned by their community, young Gaqka (Crow) and his grandmother retreat to the woods, where Gaqka learns to hunt and where he encounters an enchanted storytelling stone that tells about "the world before this one." Gaqka’s hunting suffers when he begins to visit the stone daily, and his worried grandmother sends spies who, like her grandson, also fall under the stone’s spell. Eventually, the whole village recognizes the power of stories, and Gaqka, as storyteller, returns as an esteemed member of his community. In the stone’s voice, Martin retells the ancient tales in language that is both spare and exciting, deftly folding them into the novel’s compelling framing story that is based on a Seneca legend. Nichols’ expertly cut paper sculptures, elegant and minimal, don’t overpower the stories. Peter Jemison, a Seneca elder, introduces the book, and an extensive author’s note offers more cultural background and source information. A highly readable, intriguing novel about northern Native American traditions, for both curricular support and pleasure reading.” —Gillian Engberg Copyright © American Library Association, Booklist
“Crow is a Seneca boy who lives with his grandmother apart from their village, having been ostracized from the community and blamed for tragedies the year before. It is Crow’s responsibility to hunt and provide for the two of them. On a hunting venture, Crow comes across a boulder that, in exchange for gifts, wants to tell the Long-Ago Time stories.”
“The story of Crow frames the stories of the Storytelling Stone-tales of creation, good and evil, death, and the origins of the world as we know it. The stories entertain, teach the history of the community, and guide the heart and spirit. Martin (The Shark God 2001, etc) had the storyteller’s gift of lively descriptive prose, energized by strong verbs and rich details of nature and the Seneca way of life.”
“Newcomer Nicholls’s remarkable paper sculptures enliven the text with images of crows, bears, loons, buffalo, and moccasins. The Author’s Note sets the stories in their historical context, relating the importance of the Seneca as one of the founding nations of the Iroquois Confederacy and seeing the work as part of a debt owed the Seneca people.”