Apples From Heaven

Apples From Heaven: Multicultural Folk Tales About Stories and Storytellers by Naomi Baltuck.
North Haven: Linnet Books, 1995. ISBN 0 208-02434-4 (paper) $17.50 ISBN 0-208-02424-7 (cloth) $ 25.00

Introductions to books are odd things. I read them dutifully, but have come to appreciate that they must be difficult to write. Some are dry lists of why the book was written, and how, and who will benefit from learning what from it. More often they are mildly interesting previews of the style of the author and content of the book. Rarely are they as warmly personal and engaging as Baltuck's introduction to this, her latest book. After finishing the introduction, I not only felt I knew Naomi, I was more than ready to hear a story "from her mouth."

The stories in Apples are, for the most part, retold by Baltuck from other sources. The retellings are a storyteller's delight: rich, tellable language with just enough narrative description to stimulate paralinguistic interpretation.

Some of the stories were familiar to me, but many were not, and there was a surprising variety among the 31 tales. There are stories about the beginnings of stories and about why we tell. There are tales about tellers: the teachers, liars, braggarts, and wise ones who use stories. And there are stories about the power of stories to delight, to heal, and to teach us about ourselves and the world we live in.

Each of the stories is headed by a proverb. Words are spoken with shells, and it is left to the intelligence to crack them, says one Mossi folk saying (Africa). And from the Navaho: We shall exist as long as our stories are moist with our breath.

Twenty seven cultures are represented in the collection, and some of those have subcultures represented as well. All are listed in a multicultural index at the end of the book. There is also a list of sources and variants. Three apples fell from heaven begins the familiar Annenian saying. Baltuck's book is an apple from heaven, too. Don't miss it.

The Second Story Review, Vol 1, No. 1, March 1996
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