“Visually thrilling” – The Wall Street Journal

Posted by on Jun 27, 2016 in Reviews | 0 comments


The storytelling traditions of Morocco burst into brilliant swaths of gold and lapis lazuli in the visually thrilling pages of Evan Turk’s “The Storyteller” (Atheneum, 48 page, $18.99). Set in modern times, this picture book for 4- to 8-year-olds begins by evoking a past when stories spun by fabulists brought people together with a force as refreshing and life-giving as the kingdom’s many fountains. “But as the kingdom grew and life became easier…,” we read, “the voices of storytellers were drowned by noise and silenced by age, and one by one the fountains dried up.”

It is in this sere, story-famished Morocco that a thirsty young boy receives, from a stranger, a brass cup. If he can find water, the cup will allow him to share. Soon the boy encounters a withered old man, who spins a tale of drought and treachery and whose words, to the boy’s amazement, leave his cup brimming with water. Over the next days, the man unfurls more stories, each connected to the first, each a wellspring of fresh water. So when a fierce jinni in the form of a sandstorm arrives to menace the city, the boy and the storyteller know what to do: Like Scheherazade, they forestall destruction by telling stories to the jinni. Mr. Turk’s illustrations lend a strange beauty to this tale-within-a-tale-within-a-tale.

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‘The Storyteller’ in Photos – Publisher’s Weekly

Posted by on Jun 18, 2016 in Reviews, The Art of 'The Storyteller' | 0 comments


Publisher’s Weekly’s “Children’s Bookshelf” recently did a feature photo essay on the creation of ‘The Storyteller’! I talked with them about the inspiration, my trips to Morocco, where I learned some of the techniques, and how the story began! Thank you so much to Natasha Gilmore at PW for reaching out.


You can check out a link to see it all below:

Evan Turk’s ‘The Storyteller’ In Photos

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“When a storyteller dies, a library burns”

Posted by on Jun 3, 2016 in Reviews | 0 comments


The old Moroccan saying that Turk shares with readers, “When a storyteller dies, a library burns,” perfectly captures the message of his picture book: stories are life. In drought-stricken Morocco, at the edge of the Sahara desert, a thirsty child’s quest for water leads him to a fountain, where an old, forgotten storyteller sits. He captures the boy’s imagination with a tale, and by the time the man has finished speaking, the boy’s cup has miraculously filled with cool water. Day after day, the boy returns to the fountain, eager to hear more of the story. Meanwhile, a djinn draws near the parched kingdom, threatening to turn it back into desert. The boy—in a Shahrazad-like move—distracts (and defeats!) the djinn by sharing the storyteller’s tales, which simultaneously rejuvenates the city by bringing its people together and replenishing the kingdom’s wells.

Rich illustrations rendered in watercolor, ink, and pencil engulf the pages with desert golds and deep indigo, blending folk-art and contemporary styles. Double-page spreads dramatically illustrate kingdom’s forgetfulness and subsequent incursion of swirling sands, as well as the sapphirine return of water through life-giving words. Turk’s layered ode to storytelling’s magic begs to be shared aloud with a group, though the detailed art merits close inspection. A concluding author’s note on storytelling traditions contextualizes this beautiful, original folktale.— Amina Chaudhri

—Booklist, Starred Review star

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We need stories to feed our spirits

Posted by on May 7, 2016 in Reviews | 0 comments


Folktales involving water abound in all cultures, but this tale is unusual in using water as a metaphor for story: just as we need water to nourish our physical selves, we need stories to feed our spirits. In Turk’s fable, a lone storyteller remains in a Moroccan city where the water sources have all dried up. When a young boy seeks water, the water-seller has only a bowl to give him, but the storyteller tells him a tale that miraculously fills the bowl. In a series of nested stories, the boy’s thirst is quenched, and by retelling the stories Scheherazade-style to a sandstorm in the form of a djinn, he is able to save the city and also replenish its water supply.

In predominant hues of brown and blue, Turk’s bold, semiabstract mixed-media illustrations conjure up swirls of sand and waves of water, evoking the environment and its people. The spreads contain concentric borders representing each of the stories as it is told. Using age-old literary elements and a loose, contemporary art style filled with symbolism, Turk successfully melds two equally important concerns of our time—the need to keep storytelling alive and the need to protect and conserve our drinking water.

VERDICT This lush and lovely title is highly recommended for its aesthetic qualities as well as its multiple curricular tie-ins, including geography, environmental studies, language arts, and art education.

School Library Journal, Starred Review star

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Stories, like water, are life sustaining

Posted by on Apr 8, 2016 in Reviews | 0 comments


Swaths of indigo swirl across detailed folk art illustrations in this intricate allegorical tale about the power of storytelling.

A layered narrative featuring stories nestled within stories begins with a boy in a drought-stricken Moroccan village, where water and storytellers are scarce. Looking to quench his thirst, the boy encounters an ancient raconteur: “The man’s face cracked like dry mud to reveal a toothless grin. ‘Sit down, my boy, and your thirst shall be quenched.’ ” Various tales and their tellers are woven into the story the old man spins, with color-coordinated typefaces and borders helping readers track the different narrators. As the boy listens, his cup fills repeatedly with water, which figures prominently in the story’s climax. Turk (Grandfather Gandhi) combines primitive sketches and simple patterns to create sophisticated multimedia spreads.

Fountains of blue pour from the mouths of storytellers, cementing the message that stories, like water, are life sustaining. The revelation of the final narrator brings this multifaceted tale to satisfying closure. An author’s note details the inspiration for his modern-day allegory: a real-life resurgence of the storytelling craft in one Moroccan cafe. Publisher’s Weekly, Starred Review star

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Storytelling Celebrated as Life-giving Force

Posted by on Mar 28, 2016 in Reviews | 0 comments


The art of storytelling is celebrated as a life-giving force in this enthralling picture book set in Morocco.

A nameless, thirsty boy meets a storyteller and is drawn to return day after day to listen to intricately linked stories and to learn the older man’s art. The stories bring not only sustenance to the boy’s inner life, but water to his lips, for in this world, storytelling and water are symbolically connected. Stories will ward off the great drought if the Sahara encroaches on the cities, but only if young people keep the tradition alive. And so, in the manner of Scheherazade, the stories unfold, and the protagonist retells the story of the boy who saved the city from the sandstorm that arrived as a large djinn by telling him a story, day by day. With the stories embodying sharing, creativity, and hope, the life force of cool blue water appears in the illustrations, the antithesis of the destructive brown sand. Beautiful swirls of blue dominate many of the intricately bordered double-page spreads, fighting against the tans and browns of the djinn and the sands he represents. Each spread takes on a life of its own, sometimes highly geometric, other times full of swiftly crayon-drawn individuals, and still others with heavily inked and outlined figures.

Original storytelling with the feel of the best folklore, enhanced by illustrations done in a style not seen anyplace else. Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review star

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