cover image The First Strawberries: A Cherokee Story

The First Strawberries: A Cherokee Story

Joseph Bruchac. Dial Books, $14.89 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-1332-1

Bruchac ( Keepers of the Earth ; Thirteen Moons on Turtle's Back ) once again brings simplicity and lyricism to his interpretation of Native American legend. The Cherokee tale told here explains the origin of various berries and, in the process, presents an unspoken but powerful case for respecting one another and the earth. The first man and woman live in harmony, until one day the man speaks in anger and the woman leaves him, walking so fast he cannot catch her. Regretting his outburst, he appeals to the sun, who agrees to help by slowing the woman's pace--creating in her path raspberries, then blueberries, blackberries and, finally, strawberries, which ``glow like fire in the grass.'' Stopping to taste one, the woman finds that its sweetness ``reminds her of how happy she and her husband had been together,'' and she decides to share the fruit with her husband. Spare text, an uncomplicated story line and gentle illustrations keep this quiet but resonant tale accessible to even the youngest child. Vojtech's soft, luminous watercolors conjure up an unspoiled landscape bathed in sunlight--visual reinforcement of the idea that the earth and its wonders are indeed gifts. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)