Bruchac, Joseph. Talking Leaves
August 23rd 2016 by Dial Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
Young teen Uwohali has been living with his mother even since his parents divorced and his father has been away from the village for various reasons, but he wants to try living with his father, Sequoyah, even though Sequoyah is remarried and has a young daughter. Sequoyah has spent a lot of time dealing with both the Cherokee people and also the US citizens who are trying to take land away from the indigenous people. Uwohali finds it hard to reconnect with his father at first, but then finds out about his latest project-- a syllabary for the Tsalagi language. He had made attempts at this before, but people thought it was witchcraft and his wife even burned his first attempts! With Uwohali's help, Sequoyah is able to persuade the Cherokee that an alphabet that is based on the sounds of their own language will enable them to record their history and make them competitive in a more modern world.
Strengths: This was very well researched and had a lot of interesting details about life in the early 1800s. Uwohali's relationships with various members of his family are interesting-- he comes to love and admire his younger half sister, and comes to appreciate the many things that his father has done to further the cause of their people, even though such activities have taken Sequoyah away from Uwohali. Bruchac always does a good job at highlighting historical events that have been neglected.
Weaknesses: This was very slow paced. Historical fiction is a hard sell in middle school, and students may not want to read about the development of a syllabary, no matter how important it is to Native Americans.
What I really think: This falls within our 8th grade social studies curriculum, so I may buy a copy, but it will take some persuasion to get students to read it.