Critical Context

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Charles Finger was born in England and traveled extensively throughout the world before settling in the United States. Although he wrote books for adults and children, he is best remembered for Tales from Silver Lands, which received the Newbery Medal in 1925, and another collection of folktales, Tales Worth Telling (1927). Tales from Silver Lands was one of the first collections that made South American Indian folktales accessible to young readers, and it is still among the few in print; others are Natalia M. Belting’s Moon Was Tired of Walking on Air (1992), a collection of traditional South American Indian creation myths, and The Mythology of South America (1988), by John Bierhorst, a more scholarly volume that includes references and notes on sources.

The stories in this collection can be enjoyed by a wide range of ages, but they are quite appropriate for young readers because of the various levels at which they are written. Each tale is an entertaining adventure story, but they can also be explored in terms of the context of the storyteller, which includes the particular geography, life-forms, weather, and traditional values of particular regions. The maxims on which the stories are based are worth examining, because they reflect not only regional values but ancient wisdom about life as well. These are stories told to the young people of a culture to direct their ways, to create reflection on behavior, and to caution. Yet, they also reflect the concerns of contemporary young readers with questions such as “How should I live my life?” “What goals should I seek?” and “What values are worth having?”