Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The First Strawberries: A Cherokee Story (Joseph Bruchac)


Author:  Joseph Bruchac

Illustrator:  Anna Vojtech

Just the Beginning
“Long ago when the world was new, the Creator made a man and a woman.  The two of them were made at the same time so that neither would be lonesome.  They married, and for a long time they lived together and were happy.”

Summary
One day, the man says unkind words to the woman. She walks away in anger. The Sun takes pity on the repentant husband, so he sends raspberries first, then blueberries, and then blackberries to the earth in an attempt to stop the woman. It is with the strawberries—the final gift—that she stops.

“She knelt down and plucked one and bit into it.  She had never tasted anything like it before. Its sweetness reminded her how happy she and her husband had been together before they quarreled.” 

As she gathers some to take back to him, the man catches up.  He asks for her forgiveness.  She answers by sharing the sweet berries. 

Evaluation
The story is simple but beautiful. I read it for the first time several days ago, yet it has stayed with me. I will never eat another strawberry without remembering this lovely Cherokee tale. The soft watercolor illustrations compliment the narrative perfectly. 

The ending is noteworthy: “To this day, when the Cherokee people eat strawberries, they are reminded to always be kind to each other; to remember that friendship and respect are as sweet as the taste of ripe, red berries.”  The strawberry, also, reminds me of the power of forgiveness and the importance of gratitude for the sweetness of life.

If you are teaching about Native American culture at home or in the classroom, I urge you to use this book as part of your lesson or unit plan. However, The First Strawberries is a powerful story on its own. I recommend picking up a copy to read for enjoyment, character building, or multicultural enrichment. The straightforward text is appropriate for ages 5 and up. 

Joseph Bruchac has written many books highlighting the stories and culture of Native Americans. He represents a genuine voice of the culture.  

3 comments:

  1. I've added this book to my library list. Having read in your post that you think of this story when you eat strawberries, I'm curious to read this Cherokee tale for myself.

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  2. I hope you love it as much as I do!

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  3. What an interesting way to look at strawberries. There aren't enough books about the indigenous peoples so it's great to learn about this one. Thanks!

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