BOOK REVIEW
By Paula Hamilton

 

TURTLE SONGS
A Tale For Mothers and Daughters
Beyond Words Publishing

Being a life-long reader, I always enjoy getting books to peruse, and now that I’m a parent, I’m especially excited when it’s a children’s book.  In our house the television is strictly screened, curtailed, and relegated to its proper position, behind books.  So, while I may not be convinced to buy yet another plastic toy, I am always willing to bring home a book to share with my daughter, seemingly a budding reader in her own right.

In taking two versions of a traditional tale from the Fiji Islands, Margaret Olivia Wolfson has put together a truly lovely story of the Turtle Princess and her little daughter. A professional storyteller and author of numerous award-winning children’s books, Wolfson dramatizes the cultural myths and stories told worldwide. This tale unfolds the story of  Princess Tinaicaboga or Tinandi Thambonga and her daughter Raun-indalithe or Raudalice which has been shortened to Rani for the story.  The Princess and her daughter have an encounter one day which leads them from a death of one human life and into a rebirth of another life, as sea turtles. 

The story gives explanation to the women villagers’ age-old custom of singing to the sea turtles, which then rise up out of the waters upon hearing the villagers’ voices.  The sight of the turtles shows that the women ancestral spirits — or vu — are showing their love, and that harmony will continue to prevail in the world.  O.K., the story is not really exclusively for mothers and daughters only, but it is so nice to see a story in which the characters are a mother and her daughter. Girls need positive female models in books, and they like stories where little girls are main characters. I truly enjoyed reading the book but it was made even more special being able to read it with my little daughter. 

The story is well told and superbly illustrated, with incredible watercolor renderings by Karla Sachi.  The illustrations alone make it a delightful book to page through. The influence of her studio location on Kona, the big Island of Hawaii, comes through and has made the colors and feel of the Fiji Island tale come to life in an especially appropriate way.

I liked the bridge the story makes with the tales of another culture, especially a culture we may not hear about very much. It assists us in making the world smaller by showing the similarities between us, even though we may live very far away from one another. In her notes the author expresses her feelings regarding the story’s important bond with the natural world and our connection to all living things. She also feels it expresses the powerful link between mother and daughter.  I thought the story was also a good, safe and imaginative outlet for helping to explain the changes or transformations that may take place after death, a difficult subject to explain to children at any level.

A beautiful book, both in word and in picture, it is a refreshing, intelligent change from the mediocrity and banality that passes for many so-called children’s stories.  This book is sure to spark conversation about many subjects you may or may not have thought about from a child’s perspective, and I think it is a worthwhile book to include on their shelves.

Share it and see what happens. Create a life-long love for learning in a child, by placing importance on reading skills and grow a reader of your own!

Available from Beyond Words Publishing, you may order this book by calling (800) 284-9673.


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