Tag Archives: water

PPBF – The Storyteller

I happened upon The Storyteller on its book birthday, while seeking another picture book at a local bookstore. The bright blue cover with golden illustrations immediately grabbed my attention, as did its title. As those who read my posts know, I’m a sucker for folktales, especially new, original ones. With its well-crafted story and stunning illustrations, this one is an especially wonderful example of the genre, making it a Perfect Picture Book.

9781481435185_p0_v1_s192x300Title: The Storyteller

Written & Illustrated By: Evan Turk

Publisher/date: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2016

Suitable for Ages: 4-8 and older

Themes/Topics: folktale, storytelling, Morocco, water, the power of words

Opening: “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 thirst of the desert, and storytellers to bring the people together.”

Brief Synopsis: A young boy seeks water in a drought-stricken Moroccan village. An elderly storyteller tells him a tale, quenches his thirst and empowers him to exert the power of his stories, too.

Links to Resources:

  • Ask a relative to tell a story about his or her childhood, the family, or your hometown
  • Try telling a story to your family, friends, or even a pet
  • Try different watercolor techniques and projects
  • Read a story about a place you’ve visited, or would like to visit

Why I Like this Book:

Both the words and the artwork of The Storyteller are intricate and invite multiple readings. Stories appear within stories, woven together through multi-layered artwork. The message of this folktale – that the power of traditional stories and the oral tradition of passing them on is, like water, necessary to sustain the individual spirit and the community – is an important reminder to preserve traditions and local culture in this internet-saturated era.

Turk’s semi-abstract, mixed-media illustrations featuring browns, for the encroaching desert, and blues, for the life-giving water, both enhance and further the tale. I especially appreciate that he learned an indigo/tea painting technique in Morocco and utilizes it to great effect. 9781481435185_p3_v4_s192x300

A Note about Craft:

When I read in a Publisher’s Weekly interview Turk’s explanation of the origins of The Storyteller, I was reminded of advice new authors and author/illustrators often hear: write what you know; write what you’re passionate about; and ideas can be anywhere.

As for idea generation, Turk’s initial exposure to the arts of Morocco occurred at the Morocco country area at Epcot Center in Walt Disney World. Following this introduction, he travelled to Morocco, where he learned about the storyteller tradition and delved further into the artistic techniques he utilizes in The Storyteller.

Had Turk, a Colorado native and current New Yorker, stuck to what he knew, this story could not have been written and illustrated, at least not by him. Instead, he followed the passion stirred by his first exposure to Moroccan arts. The result is an original folktale that is sure to stand the test of time. Incidentally, it far exceeds the low word-count prevalent in so many current picture books. At 48 pages, The Storyteller exceeds the typical 32-page norm as well. Thankfully, both Turk and Atheneum bucked the trends.

The Storyteller is Evan Turk’s debut picture book as author/illustrator. Based on the many starred reviews, this will not be the last we read and see from this 2015 Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Honor recipient.

Perfect Picture Book Friday: A Bucket of Blessings

I have an on-going, and seemingly never-satisfied, thirst for myths, legends and folktales from around the world, in particular origin myths. So when I saw today’s Perfect Picture Book on the recent acquisitions shelf at my local library, I had to nab it, and, like the young monkey in the story, share it.


A-Bucket-of-Blessings-Cover-NYT-homeTitle: A Bucket of Blessings

Written By: Kabir Sehgal & Surishtha Sehgal

Illustrated By: Jing Jing Tsong

Publisher/date: Beach Lane Books, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: India, legends, peacocks, water, blessings, drought

Opening: “Near a majestic mountain, in a vast jungle with many mango trees, lives Monkey. It has not rained for weeks. The village well and the pond are dry.”

Brief Synopsis: In the midst of a drought, a young monkey remembers a legend told by his mother: a peacock can make it rain by dancing. The monkey asks the peacock to dance, only to learn that the peacock needs water to make it rain. Monkey finds water, but a leaky bucket may dash his hopes for rain.

Links to Resources: Younger children can color peacocks, or try drawing them. Collages, from scraps of colored paper, wallpaper scraps or fabric, would be another interesting project. Older children can try their hands at India-themed crafts.

A hand-off race with a water-filled bucket could provide some interesting conversations as the water invariably sloshes out and disappears.

Older children can learn more about water scarcity and how they can help, at Charity Water, the charity designated by Beach Lane Books to receive a portion of proceeds from A Bucket of Blessings.

Why I Like this Book: A plucky monkey, a radiant peacock, a legend from a part of the world I frankly don’t know enough about, a problem that affects so many people in the world and gorgeous illustrations: what’s not to like about this book? The story is told simply, and the illustrations are gorgeous. Mother-son duo, Surishtha Sehgal and Kabir Sehgal, offer a non-preachy lesson on the importance of water, with a bonus donation to support charitywater.org.


This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!