World Before This One, The.jpg

The World Before This One

Written by Rafe Martin

Illustrated by Calvin Nicholls

A magical first novel, drawing on thousands of years of Seneca legend. 

Crow is a Seneca boy, coming-of-age in a time of war, in a time before stories. Outcast, and living on the fringes of the community with his grandmother, Crow struggles merely to find enough food to make it through the harsh winter. Until one day he finds a boulder in the woods that startles him by speaking.

And what it tells Crow are the great legends of the Seneca - How the world was created when Sky Woman fell from the clouds. How a young boy became a buffalo, and outraced the herd’s tyrant leader. How two brothers escaped the spell of the quilt-of-eyes. And more!

But Grandmother is suspicious of Crow’s long afternoons in the forest. She fears some evil magic has ensnared him. And she lays out a plan to put an end to it! The question is: will she succeed before Crow gains the power to become the world’s first storyteller?

In this novel, Rafe Martin shows this cycle of myths to be every bit the equal of such beloved stories as the Arthurian legends, developing in Europe at the same time.

A masterful accomplishment by a master storyteller.

Reviews and Awards

2004 Story Telling Resource Award

⋆ “Martin (The Shark God) has the storyteller's gift of lively descriptive prose, energized by strong verbs and rich details of nature and the Seneca way of life. Newcomer Nicholls's remarkable paper sculptures enliven the text with images of crows, bears, loons, buffalo, and moccasins.… This is handsome and important, belonging in most collections, but especially for anyone who likes to imagine sitting by a fire hearing a well-told story.” – Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Working with a council of Seneca elders, storyteller Martin created a collection of folktales that reads like a novel. … Martin retells the ancient tales in language that is both spare and exciting, deftly folding them into the novel's compelling framing story that is based on a Seneca legend. Nichols' expertly cut paper sculptures, elegant and minimal, don't overpower the stories.… A highly readable, intriguing novel about northern Native American traditions.” – Booklist

“In his first work for young adults, Martin… bundles together more than a dozen wonderful tales from the Seneca storytelling tradition. Martin's simple but dignified prose demonstrates the respect he has for the tales he is retelling, and their authenticity is attested to in an introduction by Peter Jemison, a Seneca Elder. The book also features a series of breathtakingly beautiful illustrations of cut-paper sculptures by Calvin Nicholls.” – Voice of Youth Advocates

“Up-Written in the style of a novel, this collection of 14 Seneca tales is presented through the retelling of one central story into which all of the others are artfully woven. … The stories show that life's experiences include both pain and happiness; they teach the importance of patience and of learning from others.” – School Library Journal 

Purchase Options
Indiebound • Amazon • Barnes & Noble

Fall 2002
Illustrated Novel
ISBN: 0-590-37976-3
Price: $15.95/$24.99
Trim Size: 7" x 9 1/4"
Page Count: 256
Foreign Rights: Scholastic
Translation Rights: Writer's House, LLC
Rights Available? yes

Also see: