Friday, February 6, 2004
Turtle's Race With Beaver
Bruchac, Joseph and James Bruchac. 2003. TURTLE’S RACE WITH BEAVER. Ill. by Jose Aruego and Ariane Dewey. New York: Penguin Putnam. ISBN 0803728522 [Suggested Ages 4-8]
SUMMARY AND ANALYSIS
Winsome Turtle is challenged to a race by Beaver, a disgruntled and selfish Beaver who has built a “wonderful dam and a splendid lodge” on her beloved pond as she slept in her muddy bed below. Even though Turtle graciously offers to share her pond, Beaver indignantly refuses to consider such an idiotic suggestion and insists on a showdown. Braggingly, Beaver announces to the other animals that he has challenged Turtle for possession of her domain, and one by one the animals congregate for the predictable romp. Soon the moment arrives and the animals begin to cheer “Turtle! Beaver! Turtle! Beaver!” Finally Bear lifts his paw and says “On your mark. Get set…GO!” Just as Beaver lunges from the starting line, little does anyone realize that Turtle has a few tricks up her sleeve? Much to everyone’s delight, Turtle outwits Beaver and triumphs as the sole possessor of her lovely pond.
Joseph and James Bruchac’s use of playful language is engaging and thrilling (“YEEE-OWWWW! Weeee! KA-THUNK! Chomp! Chomp!…Whack! Whack!”). Aruego and Dewey’s colorful and engaging illustrations add to the authors’ humorous and polished style. One of the most brilliant and distinctive features is the quizzical aura expressed through the eyes of the animals as they anticipate the race. Children will sense that things might not end the way Beaver assumes. Again, the Bruchacs have brought a fresh and lively perspective to a Senecan folktale that will excite children and leave them with the idea that sharing has its rewards.
Children could discuss the need for everyone to strive to cooperate, persevere, and to act with humility. The related books by Joseph Bruchac, especially the ‘MOUSE BRAGGING SONG’ in THE EARTH UNDER SKY’S FEET could be read and discussed to show the similarities. Children can be encouraged to recreate the way Turtle chooses to outdo Beaver and role play their ideas.
Students can be invited to draw their own ponds and study the different animals that live in ponds. If possible, pond water, rainwater, and tap water can be collected and analyzed under a microscope to show that different varmints reside in each. Fostering creative thinking in relation to wildlife, ecology, and environmental issues can also be used in conjunction with the curriculum.
Other books by Bruchac that could be compared to this one:
HOW CHIPMUNKS GOT THEIR STRIPES. ISBN 0142500216
THE GREAT BALL GAME. ISBN 0803715390
THE EARTH UNDER SKY BEAR’S FEET. ISBN 069811647X
By Rita Pickett