Book Review: The Talking Earth

First posted in June, 2008

The Talking EarthOverall, I enjoyed Jean Craighead George's The Talking Earth. The best way to describe the plot without spoiling too much is to quote a bit from the jacket:

Billie Wind lives with her Seminole tribe. She follows their customs, but the dangers of pollution and nuclear war she's learned about in school seem much more real to her. How can she believe the Seminole legends about talking animals and earth spirits? She wants answers, not legends. ¶ "You are a doubter," say the men of the Seminole Council, and so Billie goes out into the Everglades alone, to stay until she can believe. In the wilderness, she discovers that she must listen to the land and animals in order to survive.

As expected, the book explores Seminole culture (ancient as well as modern), its clash with modern society (particularly secular science), and the vast wilderness of the Everglades. I suppose what I enjoyed most about the book was the exploration of the landscape, as I have some very fond memories of paddling a canoe or wending my way down the watery paths of the Okefenokee (a nearby swamp with much of the same flora and fauna as the Everglades) in a jon boat.

The book was plausible for the most part, though it required some grand suspension of disbelief on a couple of occasions, and I felt that George needed to do a bit more research into certain federal environmental and archaeological regulations, but those things annoyed me more than it would the average young adult (the target audience) who would have been reading this in 1983 when the book was first released. I did feel that it was quite accurate in its descriptions of the landscape, the flora in particular, and the changes that occur with times of day and weather; this is where the book truly shines.