Legends of Kee Tov

“Legends of Kee Tov” is written by H. A. Dale of Soudan. I very much enjoyed this book and would recommend it to readers of all ages. This book would be a great one to read aloud as a family as life lessons and solid values are intertwined with Native American inspired legends.

The setting of “Legends of Kee Tov” is the location of Dale’s family cabin on the shores of Pike River, or The River of Swarming Fish. The book is a mixture of autobiographical personal reflection and fictional supposed history, Kee Tov comes alive as the reader is flown on eagle’s wings to the past and lives of the first inhabitants of the area.

At the beginning of each chapter Dale illustrates the life of his family in the Minnesota wilderness. He contemplates his surroundings which leads him to a question about the history of the location. Archeologists have told him what little information is available so he has found another way to discover the answer to his questions.

“I have a way of finding answers to questions that history doesn’t provide,” writes Dale in the introduction to the book. “I sit at the shoreline of the river, feel the heat of the fire I’ve built, and when moonbeams dance through the giant white pine boughs and shimmer over my body, and a perfectly soft wind breathes through those needles, I am led by whispers into the ages.”

Each chapter whisks Dale and the reader into the past — into the lives of the first residents of Kee Tov. By the end of each chapter, or legend as they are called, the reader is given time to reflect with Dale on the meaning and moral of each story.

Chapter by chapter a fuller picture of the history of Kee Tov, or “It is magnificently, gloriously, splendidly good” in Hebrew, is created through the growing story of the first people who lived there. Meanings behind natural occurrences are explained — why the water is red and why there is a stain on the flat rock are experienced through legends.

Each chapter or legend was written in a way that is reminiscent of Native American storytelling. Throughout the book poems are easily imagined into traditional chants and songs are found. The clothes and lives of the characters are easily recognizable to anyone with even a limited understanding of Native American history.

As I reviewed this book I found it necessary to acknowledge that I am a caucasian woman, and the author of this book is a caucasian man — as far as I can tell from his author’s photo. All of the characters in this book are Native American and the writing style is reminiscent of Native American legends used as oral history. This caused me to pause and take a moment of reflection on how this book will be received by Native American readers. Will they view it as keeping with their teachings and true to their ancestors or will they be insulted by the assumed characteristics?

As a caucasian living in Northern Minnesota, I really enjoyed this book. As far as I could tell, it did stay accurate and positively reflect Native American peoples.

In the author’s biography it is stated that Dale is an ordained Lutheran clergyman who, along with creating the nonprofit organizations The Cusson Project and Volunteers in Education in Northern Minnesota also, has worked in Tanzania building primary schools and serving as executive director of Operation Bootstrap Tanzania.

The author’s personal history with religion and the passing of oral history is visible, but not obvious in the text.

Throughout “The Legends of Kee Tov” the Great Spirit is acknowledged in a way that is also flattering and almost like the characters are praying to the Christian God. The values taught through the legends are complimentary to both Native American and Christian religious beliefs.

The book itself is easy to read. The language is not complicated. The text is large and the chapters are generally short.

I would recommend this book to anyone. It is an nice read- exciting but not stressful and encourages quiet reflection. The book is very easy to pick up and put down — reading a chapter as time allows or all at once. Chapters do build on each other but could also be read as stand alone stories.

For those with memory problems, this would be a good book to enjoy as it not utterly necessary to remember what has previously occurred to follow the story. This could be a good book to read at a nursing home or with an elderly neighbor.

I would also recommend this as a family book. It would be great to read aloud to or with children. The stories and values taught could easily be used for starting points to conversations and teaching moments. The material is appropriate for all ages.

I would of course recommend this book to a church book club of any age.

This is a book that I wouldn’t mind having on a bookshelf at the cabin and taking down every now and then as the wind blowing in the trees inspires.

As a reader, it was fun to relax into the past of Kee Tov. I hope to one day have such a location to escape to, but until then, this book provided great transportation for such a place for me to imagine.

Dale will be appearing at the Lyric Center for the Arts at 6:30 p.m. Monday, June 5 in the Lyric Annex at 516 Chestnut Street, Virginia. As part of the monthly Words and Lyrics meeting, Dale will read from “Legends of Kee Tov” and be available to sign copies of his book.


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