Today’s book review is for The Otter, The Spotted Frog & The Great Flood: A Creek Indian Story, written by Gerald Hausman, illustrated by Ramon Shiloh, published by Wisdom Tales Press. This book is scheduled for release on October 31, 2013. I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
In The Otter, The Spotted Frog & The Great Flood: A Creek Indian Story, accomplished storyteller and folklore scholar, Gerald Hausman offers a retelling of a Creek origin tale. In it, Spotted Frog warns all of the animals of a coming flood–but an otter, named Listener, is the only one to heed the warnings. This story is both entertaining and instructional. It encourages us to listen to nature and read the signs of Mother Earth.
Hausman manages to retell this story from a historically oppressed culture with sensitivity and respect. He uses a sort of stripped down prose that is popular in oral storytelling. Only the most essential information is transmitted, and descriptive passages are only used if they are needed to illustrate an important aspect of the story. Much of the tale is told through the dialogue between its characters. By using this simple style, Hausman is able to share this traditional story without imposing too much of his own personality upon it.
The story is accompanied by beautiful illustrations by Native artist Ramon Shiloh. Whenever water is present, you can see the influence of the Pacific northwest on his work–the bold, swirling geometric swaths of color give a sense of chaos and disorder in the world. Many of the images are presented as circles, which connects to the classic cosmological perspective of the earth as being bound and domed. Shiloh’s pictures not only convey the story, but also connect it to the larger American Indian traditions.
In his author’s note, Hausman explains how this is but one of a large number of great flood stories that occur across cultures. The theme of this one, like many others, is that “progress is from a lower world to a higher one… [where] there is light, and the possibility for greater and more abundant life.” This is a message that still resonates today. Only by reaching higher can we continue to grow as individuals and as a culture.
The Otter, The Spotted Frog & The Great Flood provides children with the opportunity to learn about the Creek people through their stories. At the same time, it gives them a chance to explore questions of prophecy, listening to nature, and human progress. I award it 4 out of 5 stars for its educational value as well as it’s thoughtful execution.
You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.