The Legend of the Spirit Serpent, by Adaiah Sanford, Illustrated by Ken Daley

ROCKETKIDS

How do we decide which stories we pass on to the next generation? In our modern world, how do we ensure that the stories of our past are not forgotten as we progress into the future?

The Legend of the Spirit Serpent - a modern retelling of a traditional Kalinago legend from the Carribean island of Dominica - ensures that this piece of the Kalingo’s past will stay with us. The story focuses on an eight-year old girl named Natari, an only child who lives with her mother and father in the village of Snake Cou, on the island of Dominica. The village is protected from the dangers of the outside world - hurricanes, famine, and invaders - by the presence of the benevolent Spirit Serpent, who lives in a cave above the village. Natari has been told many stories about the Spirit Serpent by father, one of the tribe’s chiefs, and desperately wants to visit its cave. Her father sternly warns her not to, however, as only the leaders of the tribe can visit the serpent and make it out alive.

Natari’s desire to see the Spirit Serpent only grows stronger - as has her confidence in her own abilities. Trained by her father from a young age, Natari has already proved herself strong and capable - once, while her father was away on a fishing expedition, she saved the village from starvation by hunting for food. With this in mind, she sneaks out one night to visit the Spirit Serpent.

Natari is terrified upon entering the cave - the massive Spirit Serpent coils itself around her, hissing menacingly. After Natari asks it to spare her life and become her friend, however, the Spirit Serpent transforms into a young boy. The boy proclaims that much like Natari, he’s never had a human friend before. The pair spend the night outside of the cave, walking across the still water, before the Spirit Serpent shows her a vision - three massive ships on the horizon, a warning of Christopher Columbus’s impending arrival. The pair agree to keep it a secret between the two of them and Natari wakes in her bed the next morning.

The Legend of the Spirit Serpent is a beautifully crafted retelling of this Kalingo legend. It exposes young readers to a part of the world and aspect of history that otherwise would take years of schooling to address. It celebrates the culture that many readers will know nothing of, but can come to appreciate and understand. This achievement is not done through the writing alone - wonderful illustrations using smooth brush strokes and bright, vibrant colors help the story move gracefully from page to page.

Publication Date: Mar 21, 2022 by Reycraft Books, New York ISBN: 1478875178. Ages: 7-12.

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