Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Reading Through History: The Dream Time by Henry Treece (1967)

The Dream Time tells a story set not long after humans first began walking the Earth, and its main character, Crookleg, is an artist whose capabilities are not fully understood by others. He wanders between different primitive civilizations to escape possible punishment for creating forbidden pictures.

The writing in this book is deliberately unusual as it tries to portray a consciousness that is not yet fully human, but is just waking up to its potential. Everything is new in these early days of civilization and the characters often have thoughts they can't yet express verbally or ideas that have never occurred to anyone in their tribes before. Attempting to capture how it would have felt to be a person during this time period results in a very poetic text from which the reader feels a bit disconnected.

There is a lot to philosophize about in this book, and for that reason, it seems best suited to middle school readers and older. Treece raises questions about what it means to be human, and reflects on how it might have truly felt to live in a time before most tools and techniques we use today hadn't even been imagined. I think it is hard for even adult readers to fully grasp this concept, so a book to help young readers begin to comprehend this idea is a true gift. 

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