Comprised of seven stories, all beginning with the phrase, “Once upon a time a very long time ago,” Gloria Glendale’s small anthology for middle-grade readers brings together work that ranges from thoughtful to humorous. The topics, themes and sense that each story has a moral, endow the contents with the flair of myths or fables.
The opening story, “Sun and Moon,” recounts how brother-and-sister children swap roles with the celestial bodies after the sun determines that the girl possesses a “heart of gold.” In “The Gentle Giant,” a man known for his kindness breaks a tribal taboo by killing a black bear as it attacks his beloved dog and undergoes an astonishing transformation befitting his big heart and stature. In “Morning Star,” the eponymous character receives spiritual enlightenment as her grandmother dies. The book also contains two tall tales.
While the stories show promise, this work would benefit from a professional copyedit to clean up occasional awkward sentences. It also fails to identify uncommon entities, such as the “oolichans” mentioned in the story “Morning Star,” which may prove frustrating to some readers.
Numerous Native American aspects of this book – including references to elders and identifying Morning Star as an “Indian name” – add interest but cause readers to wonder about the author’s heritage: Does she have a tribal background? Failure to clearly identify this and the stories’ settings robs the book of helpful context and seems a missed opportunity. (The author does refer to Knight Inlet in one piece but never pinpoints it geographically.) If any part of this is a retelling of traditional tales, it would, of course, be important to acknowledge this.
Overall, these elements lend to a sense that the book is written for those already familiar with the author and her world and decrease its accessibility to others. This is a shame, as the themes presented here are deserving of broader readership.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.