Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Old Turtle and the Broken Truth

Old Turtle and the Broken Truth

Douglas Wood
Illustrator:   Jon J. Muth 
Picture Book
For ages 7 and up
Scholastic , 2003   ISBN: 978-0439321099

One day, above a beautiful and distant land "where every stone was a teacher" and "every tree a ladder to the stars," a truth fell towards earth from the stars above. As it fell, the truth broke and one piece landed in the beautiful land. A crow found the broken piece of truth and, attracted by its shininess, the bird picked it up. After a while the crow lost interest in the object because the truth was not whole, and so the piece of truth was dropped again.

Many other animals picked up by the broken truth and liked it. For a while at least. Then they all began to feel that there "is something missing in this truth" and they discarded it. Then a human being found the piece of truth and he saw that the words "You Are Loved" were written on the side it. Unlike the animals, the human was, and remained, enchanted with his find. He shared the piece of shininess with his people and they all love it. In time they forgot to notice the beauties of the land they lived in. Instead they paid attention to "their sparkling truth" to the exclusion of every thing else.

At first The Truth, as they called it, made the people "feel good, and proud and strong," but then they began to resent and dislike people who did not have the same truth that they had. The people distanced themselves from others and they barely noticed the natural world around them. Then, to make matters worse, wars broke out between the various groups of people because they all wanted to possess The Truth. The animals asked Old Turtle to talk to the people and to stop them from fighting, but he explained that the people would not hear his words – not yet.

Then one day a little girl traveled a long way to talk to Old Turtle. She asked him if the world had always been to full of pain and violence. He explained that it had once been very different. He told the little girl that the suffering would end when the truth was whole once more. He explained that the world is full of small and beautiful truths. To see them, all you have to do is to listen and to look. Old Turtle told the girl that all that was needed to mend the rifts between the people was for two different people to see each other as equals. People would be able to see each other in this way if they learned to listen "to the language of the breezes" once more and to seek out the many "small and simple truths" that were all around them.

The little girl began her journey home and many trials lay ahead of her. Somehow she had to get back to her home to share Old Turtle's message.

In this thought provoking and deeply moving picture book, the author explores the idea that we have all strayed a long way from our simple origins. We no longer listen to nature and we do not trust one another, resorting to war because we do not see that we are all the same no matter what we look like or believe. In this story at least, a solution for the unhappiness is found. Perhaps if we too heed Old Turtle's words we can begin to repair the damage that we have inflicted on our precious planet and on ourselves.

In this book poignant words and gorgeous watercolor illustrations combine to create a tale that will appeal to readers of all ages.