Thirteen Moons on Turtle's Back

by Joseph Bruchac

Hardcover, 1992



Call number

811.54 Bru

Call number

811.54 Bru

Local notes

811.54 Bru




Philomel (1992), Edition: 1St Edition, Hardcover, 32 pages


Celebrates the seasons of the year through poems from the legends of such Native American tribes as the Cherokee, Cree, and Sioux.


Physical description

32 p.; 8.88 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member Chiree
“Thirteen Moons on Turtle’s Back” begins with a tale from Grandfather to a small boy about the many scales on Old Turtle’s back and how they represent the thirteen cycles of the moon in each year. Grandfather’s stories continue with thirteen different stories from thirteen different
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Native American tribal nations about how each moon represents the changing of nature and the seasons of the year. Each tale includes the wonder of nature and animals to explain events such as why the coyote sings in winter or why maple sugar only flows once a year. The tale of the “Moon of Falling Leaves” tells us why the pine and spruce remain green and the other trees shed their leaves in the autumn. “Moon When Wolves Run Together” is a tale where an old wolf tells his people that when it is time for the people to leave the earth they can follow the wolf’s footsteps which have filled the sky with stars. The last story, “Big Moon”, tells how the “People of the Dawn place one final moon” in the sky called Kit-chee Kee-sos, Big Moon. It is the last in the “circle of seasons, thirteen moons on Old Turtle’s back.”

These pourquoi tales demonstrate the Native American’s respect of nature and the amazing stories they told to explain the events of each season. Each tale is represented with a beautiful poem and illustrated on two pages in soft earth-tone hues. Below each poem is the number sequence of the moon represented and the Native American tribe from where the tale originates. Some of the stories are almost romantic while others teach the consequences of our actions such as laziness. I loved these tales and could read them again and again.

In the classroom the book could be used for many purposes. The beautiful tales the Native Americans told could be represented with this book in discussion of their culture and ways of life. The number of moons in a year and how the Native Americans used the moon cycles of 28 days for their calendar would be an extension in a lesson on learning how to read the calendar. Calendars with the cycles of the moon could be provided to the students to teach them the days of the week and the names of the months. The stories about the moon representing that phase could provide an interesting introduction for each calendar month.
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LibraryThing member miraclerussell
Summary: The book opens with an Abenaki storyteller explaining to his grandson that just as there are always 13 scales on ``Old Turtle's back,'' there are 13 moons in a year, each of which has a name and a story and also explains why the Native Americans have 13 months in a year and not 12 months
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in a year as we do and why these 13 months are important to the Native American history and ancestry/ nations.

Personal Reaction: This book is a great introduction to the Native American concept of the seasons of the year and the close and personal relationship with all of Nature. Although the language and vocabulary a little difficult for young children this is a great read aloud book! The pictures are colorful and great attention keepers.

Classroom Extension Ideas: 1. I would make copies of all 13 poems in this book and have each student pick one and read over the poem and write what they think the poem is saying in their own words. 2. I would have the students draw a picture of what they are visualizing while I read a poem from the book to them.
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LibraryThing member emtimmins
This amazing book shows the Native American moons of some tribes.
LibraryThing member rdg301library
Reading Level: Intermediate
Genre: Hybrid (Poetry and Traditional Literature)
Summary: The thirteen scales on the back to the turtle’s back relate to a different moon that helped the Native American people keep track of the months/seasons.
Evaluation: This book teaches students about how Native
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Americans distinguished their months and seasons and shows them how different it is from the twelve month cycle. Each moon had its own distinct poem that described the moon and the time that it takes place. The poems are beautifully written and the illustrations highlight the poem and bring it to life.
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LibraryThing member librisissimo
I used this for a Cub Scout Bear Den achievement (9 year olds) called "Beat of the Drum" about Native American history and folklore.
An old man tells his grandson about the 13 moons (months) of the year, represented by the 13 scales on the turtle's shell.
Each moon has a separate story and
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The stories are taken from 13 different tribal traditions, and the source is identified for that story.
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(32 ratings; 4.3)
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