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Sequoyah: The Cherokee Man Who Gave His People Writingby James Rumford
Synopses & Reviews
This beautiful picture book biography relates the story of Sequoyah, who creates a writing system for the Cherokee in the 1820s that would turn his people into a nation of readers and writers. Full color.
"Rumford's (Nine Animals and the Well) economical yet lyrically told picture-book biography begins as the unseen narrator's father explains how California's Giant Sequoia, or redwoods, earned their name. 'This Sequoyah must have been famous,/ .../ He must have been as tall and as strong as these trees.' The narrative then recounts the story of a man, crippled, who was born in Tennessee in the 1760s to 'a Cherokee woman and a white man he never knew.' Sequoyah 'was not a chief, but he loved his people like one./ He wanted them to stand as tall as any people on earth.' Sequoyah knew no English and could not read, but invented a writing system for the Cherokee, believing that 'Writing will make us strong.' The determined man scratched onto slats of wood hundreds of symbols — one for each word. When detractors, fearing these signs were evil, burned down his cabin and his work, Sequoyah began again using a different tactic; he invented a syllabary of 84 signs, 'to spell out the sounds of the language.' Sixkiller Huckaby's Cherokee translation, presented alongside the English text, makes the story all the more real and relevant. Reminiscent of woodblock prints, Rumford's spare mixed-media compositions in shades of deep green and red clay, create a pleasingly subtle, rough-hewn texture. The art's vertical format effectively imitates the stature of both the mighty redwoods and their namesake who, despite his physical ailments, stands tall and strong. Ages 5-9." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
The story of Sequoyah is the tale of an ordinary man with an extraordinary idea—to create a writing system for the Cherokee Indians and turn his people into a nation of readers and writers. The task he set for himself was daunting. Sequoyah knew no English and had no idea how to capture speech on paper. But slowly and painstakingly, ignoring the hoots and jibes of his neighbors and friends, he worked out a system that surprised the Cherokee Nation—and the world of the 1820s—with its beauty and simplicity. James Rumfords Sequoyah is a poem to celebrate literacy, a song of a peoples struggle to stand tall and proud.
About the Author
Master storyteller James Rumford combines his love for art and history in his picture books. Each of his books is vastly different in its content, design, and illustrations but one aspect remains constant throughout his work: his passion about his subjects. Rumford, a resident of Hawaii, has studied more than a dozen languages and worked in the Peace Corps, where he traveled to Africa, Asia, and Afghanistan. He draws from these experiences and the history of his subject when he is working on a book. His book Sequoyah: The Cherokee Man Who Gave His People Writing was a 2005 Sibert Honor winner.
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