Like the better known Julie of the Wolves, The Talking Earth is a love letter to nature by popular children’s author, Jean Craighead George. It shares a similar plot, where a Native American girl goes out alone and experiences her world with only her animal companions.
I read all George’s Wolves books, but I return to The Talking Earth every few years because of how beautiful George’s descriptions are of the Everglades. I feel like I am sailing through the pay-hay-okee with main character Billy Wind with every page.
The plot revolves around Billy Wind being sent out into the swamp by herself because she does not believe that the animals can speak. Intending only to spend a few days there, a wildfire brought on by the years-long drought and the practices of the “white men” traps her in a cave of her ancestors. Her only companion for days is a baby otter.
When she finally escapes, she decides to take her punishment seriously, traveling through the swamp to learn what the animals have to say to her. It is a fascinating story of survival and respect for the environment. It is a children’s book, so it is a short read, but it paints a beautiful portrait of the Everglades.
It also impresses on the reader the importance of saving this critical natural resource, being manipulated in an unsustainable way by the people in authority. George was a devoted naturalist, and she has a gift for telling exciting adventures while also preaching sustainability and respect for nature.
The Talking Earth is one of my favorite books from my youth, so I highly recommend it. It will take only a few hours to read, and it is well worth it for the perspective it offers.