The People of Twelve Thousand Winters

Ten-year-old Walking Turtle is of the Lenni Lenape tribe. He lives with his family in a small village alongside the Passaic River in what will become northern New Jersey. They have a relatively peaceful life, with nature offering up a bounty of resources for food and shelter, amply meeting their needs. Walking Turtle is close to his younger cousin, Little Talk. He feels protective of Little Talk, who has difficulty walking. Together they roam the forests near their village, with Walking Turtle carrying his cousin on his back. But in the autumn of Walking Turtle's tenth year, his father tells him that soon he must leave childhood friends behind and begin warrior school. Walking Turtle worries about what will become of Little Talk when he leaves for his training. And what is his future?Trinka Hakes Noble is the award-winning author of numerous picture books, including The Orange Shoes and The Scarlet Stockings Spy. She lives in Bernardsville, New Jersey.

Format List Price Your Price Qty
$16.95 $16.95
$28.95 $28.95
Interest Level Grade 1 - Grade 4
Reading Level
Dewey 974.004
ATOS Reading Level 4.6
Guided Reading Level
Language English
Publisher Sleeping Bear Press
Available Formats Hardcover (9781585365296), PDF (9781410310026), Hosted ebook (9781627534659)
Copyright 2012, 2014
Number of Pages 32
Dimensions 9 x 11
Graphics Full-color illustrations
  • Keystone to Reading Elementary Book Award Shortlist, Short-listed, 2013
  • Parent's Choice Foundation Recommended Book, Winner, 2012

Bloomsbury Review: The People of Twelve Thousand Winters

This is the story of Walking Turtle, who introduces himself by stating, We are the Lenni Lenape, which means “we the people.” Through the snows of twelve thousand winters we have kept our fires burning. To me, twelve thousand winters is a long, long time. I, myself, am only ten winters.

The narrator describes his village, his lodge, and his chores, giving the reader a strong sense of culture and place. At Walking Turtle’s naming ceremony, he was told, He shall carry his people on his back, as steady and sure as a hard-shelled turtle that walks over land toward water.

The story line involves the bond between Walking Turtle and Little Talk, his cousin, who was born with a foot deformity, leaving Walking Turtle to carry him around, though at times it seems “like Little Talk is carrying me.” This is a tale short on action and drama but strong it its portrayal of a way of life, made especially interesting with the vivid painterly style of the illustrations, strongly provoking a bygone classic era in children’s book art.

The Old Schoolhouse Reviews "The People of Twelve Thousand Winters"

In The People of Twelve Thousand Winters, Walking Turtle shares what it is like to be part of the Lenni Lenape tribe. Speaking in first person, he tells us how he got his name, about his cousin and his family. He shares some of the tribe’s beliefs. We get a glimpse of what his life is like in different seasons. “Set in early America just before the first Europeans reached its shores, award-winning author Trinka Hakes Noble sensitively tells the story of a Lenni Lenape boy standing on the cusp of childhood and moving into manhood.” (inside front cover)

In my opinion, the hallmark of a truly great picture book is its ability to captivate the parents as well as the children. A well-written, beautifully illustrated picture book should be just as engaging for the parent to read aloud as it is for the child to hear. The People of Twelve Thousand Winters meets my criteria for an enduring classic picture book. I loved this book as did all of my daughters. It is written well, using language that engages the young person, but does not bore an adult reading aloud. Ms. Noble uses specific adjectives and interesting verbs to paint a verbal picture. The trees are not just tall but they are “giant oaks” and “towering elms.” The clouds do not just move across the sky; they race. The boys do not just sit on the rock; they perch. Ms. Noble also weaves a few Lenape words throughout the story. I like this exposure to another language.

I wish I had this book when my oldest began her American History studies in 3rd grade. I am thankful that I have this book to use with my developmentally delayed daughter when she studies American History. We have just been enjoying the book together. I’ve used it to introduce her to the Lenni Lenape people, but I have not used it as part of formal studies. The book includes an “author’s note” and a short glossary. I used the glossary for myself, and I will use it in the future with my daughter.

Sleeping Bear Press offers a free teacher’s guide for many of the books they publish. There is one available for The People of Twelve Thousand Winters. This guide can be downloaded from the website. I will be including this book and the study guide in our more structured studies of American History. I highly recommend this book, even if you are not studying American history. This is a book worth owning.

A Review of "The People of Twelve Thousand Winters" in Children's Literature

Walking Turtle of the Lenni Lenape lives with his people along the Passaic River in what will one day become the state of New Jersey. He is very kind to his young cousin Little Talk who with his crooked foot depends on Walking Turtle to carry him wherever he goes. Walking Turtle’s family lives in a longhouse and while the women and girls gathers wild berries and herbs for cooking his father Soaring Hawk trades beaver pelts and deerskins for things the people need. Walking Turtle explains the Giving Thanks Ceremony held in the Big House that celebrates the Creator and the appearance of White Antler who utters words of praise for all that has been given to them. When Walking Turtle’s father tells him that the next winter he must go to the warrior school, Walking Turtle is afraid that he will fail and bring dishonor to his family. It is Little Talk’s wise words that assure Walking Turtle that his straight legs, strong back, and kind heart will make him a great leader. This gentle exploration of the culture of an ancient people at one with their world details their daily life while wrapping it all within the story of a young boy on the cusp of manhood. The handsome paintings with a crackle texture capture the beauty of the land and the gentle nature of a proud people.

A Review of "The People of Twelve Thousand Winters" in The Midwest Book Review

Part of the “Tales of the World” series, The People of Twelve Thousand Winters is a children’s picturebook in which award-winning author Trinka Hakes Noble portrays the life of a Native American boy growing up among his people, the Lenni Lenape, as they once lived before the arrival of European settlers who would eventually name the land “New Jersey”. Beautifully illustrated in full color, The People of Twelve Thousand Winters is as much a reflection on humanity’s ties and responsibilities to the land as it is respectful recreation of how one tribe of America’s first peoples used to survive. The People of Twelve Thousand Winters is a poignant and thought-provoking picturebook, highly recommended especially for children’s public library collections.

A Review of "The People of Twelve Thousand Winters" in School library Journal

Gr 2-4–Walking Turtle and Little Talk are children of the Lenni Lenape, living in an undetermined time in a region now part of New Jersey. They seem wise beyond their years as they convey the way of life and some of the cultural practices of their people. Ten-year-old Walking Turtle explains the relevance of his name. At his naming ceremony his mother was told, “He shall carry his people on his back, as steady and sure as a hard-shelled turtle….” He recounts how he has carried his cousin Little Talk on his back for some years because the younger boy was born with a crooked foot. Their families live together in “a three-fire lodge.” Walking Turtle describes the fall gathering of food and the Giving Thanks Ceremony in which the clan celebrates the coming change of season. Just before the evening’s festivities, his father explains to him that after the winter he must attend Warrior School. Sad that he will have to leave Little Talk behind, he takes the younger boy up to a rocky overhang where they have a heartening talk about their futures. “Walking Turtle, you are strong. I am giving you back your straight legs, your strong back, and your kind heart to take with you.” Nicely painted views of the surrounding terrain, daily activities, and the boys create a good sense of people and place, and the romanticized tale is a pleasant introduction to the Lenni Lenape. The author adds a concluding note about her inspiration for the story.

A Review of "The People of Twelve Thousand Winters" in Booklist

Long before the arrival of the first Europeans, the Lenni Lenape people lived near what is now northern New Jersey. Noble imagines what life was like for a 10-year-old boy, Walking Turtle, growing up at that time in his village above the Passaic River. Part of the Tales of the World series, this picture book weaves in cultural details through the boy’s personal narrative of how he cares for his disabled cousin, Little Talk, carrying him on his back along the river, through the mountains, and even to the Great Salt Sea. Then it is time for Walking Turtle to attend warrior school, and he worries about who will care for his cousin. Glowing, crackle-textured paintings show the bond between the two boys set against the landscape and customs of their community, including the dramatic Giving Thanks Ceremony in the Big House, when their leader tells them to be caretakers of their great land. A moving glimpse of what has been lost. A glossary and an author’s note conclude.

The People of Twelve Thousand Winters - Teaching Guide

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Author: Trinka Hakes Noble

Trinka Hakes Noble is the award-winning author of numerous picture books including The Orange Shoes (2007 National Parenting Publications Awards Honors Winner), The Scarlet Stockings Spy (2005 IRA Teachers' Choice), The Last Brother, and The Legend of the Cape May Diamond. Ms. Noble also wrote the ever-popular Jimmy's Boa series and Meanwhile Back at the Ranch, both featured on PBS's Reading Rainbow. Her many awards include ALA Notable Children's Book, Booklist Children's Editors' Choice, IRA-CBC Children's Choice, Learning: The Year's Ten Best, and several Junior Literary Guild Selections. Ms. Noble has studied children's book writing and illustrating in New York City at Parsons School of Design, the New School University, Caldecott medalist Uri Shulevitz's Greenwich Village Workshop, and at New York University. A member of the Rutgers University Council on Children's Literature, she was awarded Outstanding Woman 2002 in Arts and Letters in the state of New Jersey for her lifetime work in children's books. Ms. Noble currently lives in the historic Jockey Hollow area of Bernardsville, New Jersey.

Illustrator: Jim Madsen

Jim Madsen has been illustrating children's books and educational software for more than twenty years. He has illustrated more than 75 books over this period of time. Jim is a graduate of Brigham Young University and lives in Provo, Utah, with his wife, Holly, and their three children. When he's not coloring pictures, he can be found hiking and breathing the fresh air of the Wasatch Front mountain range.

Full-color illustrations