“You might see yellow knots on a floating backwater log,” Tingle cautions. “Better not reach for it, it might have teeth. Maybe it looks like a pile of leaves lying on the ground. Better not step on it, it might have fangs. Maybe it seems like a bunch of moss hanging from a tree limb. Better not touch it, it might have claws.” It might be Naloosa Falaya.
In Spirits Dark and Light, Tingle seamlessly weaves elements from traditional stories of the Choctaw, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminole peoples into tellings that are eerie, gruesome, frightening, poignant—and just plain satisfying. In these stories in which the world of the spirits and the natural world come together, terrible witches and conjurers stalk the careless, the dead offer advice to the living, greed is properly punished, and heroism takes many forms.
Sometimes lessons are directly stated; sometimes they are inferred; sometimes a reader will have to look pretty hard to find them. And sometimes, as Tingle tells the reader, there may not be any. “Now I am not claiming this tale to have any moral attached to it,” he says. “But if it did, it might be this: if you pull a sticker burr out of your foot, a hard sticker burr that hurts bad, once you get that sticker burr out, don’t turn right around and poke it back in.”
Tingle is a master storyteller; his flow and timing are superb. Young readers will feel like he’s talking directly to them. The stories in Spirits Dark and Light are wonderful for reading aloud at a campfire or in a darkened room.—Beverly Slapin