Title: Falling Rock | Author: Rebecca Heller | Illustrator: Joyce Robertson | Publication Date: July 8, 2014 | Publisher: Independent | Pages: 36 | Recommended Ages: 3 to 8 | Reviewed by: Renee and Dominic (Mother and Son)
Summary: When Falling Rock’s horse is stolen, an adventure begins that takes Falling Rock around the country. Helpful people put up signs to know where Falling Rock has already searched. Will Falling Rock ever see his best friend again?
My Thoughts: Falling Rock is a young First Nations (i.e., Native American) boy who has a special relationship with his beloved horse Runs Like Thunder. The two shared many adventures spending all their time together. One day, Runs Like Thunder is captured by men who take him away from Falling Rock, leaving him devastated by this loss.
Guided through mystical dreams and by a magical feather, Falling Rock spends many years searching for Runs Like Thunder, meeting and making many friends along the way. To assist with his search, his newly-found friends leave big yellow signs with “Falling Rock” along roads and mountainsides to mark the places where he has already searched. Driven by his love for and dedication to his horse, Falling Rock will not rest until he is reunited with Runs Like Thunder.
Falling Rock is a picture book blending together traditional Native American folklore with modern day phenomena (i.e., those big yellow road signs) to deliver an important message about the power of friendship, hope, and mysticism. Throughout the story, Falling Rock is in deep communion with nature through which his search is facilitated. A lone coyote appears to him in a dream as a spiritual guide on his quest to find Runs Like Thunder; but, he is also helped by an eagle (as well as a magical eagle feather given to him by his grandmother) and a turtle.
In one moving part of the story, Falling Rock encounters a group of his people who tell him that they are leaving their homes and are being taken to a reservation. While this is a small part of the story, it does allow for a discussion of Native American history and specifically issues around the colonization of First Nations people in America.
The book is illustrated by Joyce Robertson who is the author’s mother and whose work is on display in galleries in the San Francisco Bay Area and Hawaii. The illustrations are a good fit for the Native American theme and they were quite lovely, but the use of white text on black pages gives the book a dark feel. I also wish the cover featured a more dynamic illustration which included an image of the title character. In fact, Falling Rock is portrayed in only a few illustrations and usually in silhouette.
My Bottom Line: Falling Rock is a lovely anachronistic picture book steeped in traditional Native American folklore and coupled with the re-telling of the story behind the yellow “Falling Rock” signs. The story features important messages about friendship, loyalty, and hope and there are many possible points of discussion regarding First Nations culture and story-telling. I recommend this book to children ages 3 to 8.
* This book was provided to us by the author free-of-charge in exchange for our honest reviews. All opinions expressed are our own. *