Mud Witch Boy of Ghost Canyon by Valerie Temple [Charlotte M. Liebel Review]

Ventura, CA. – Valerie Temple lives in Ventura, where you will find “Clay Track Middens,” a public arts project done by the artist along the Ventura River Trail. The trash receptacle project shows clay panels with bass relief animal sculptures.


The symbolic story and drawings Valerie Temple wrote for children will stretch their imaginations. The book Mud Witch Boy of Ghost Canyon, available at all booksellers, is fantasy that touches the fringes of evolution and creation by the youthful Valerie born in Colorado. She developed stories as she created sculpted figures out of mud-clay. Ms. Temple, who lives in Ventura, published her book in 2009, soon after completing art courses at Ventura Community College and graduate studies at the University of California in Santa Barbara.

Children learn that grandparents keep memories alive when families get too busy to appreciate traditions. They learn that our environment suffers when forests are destroyed and towns vanish. Readers are reminded that children are not all alike and some are orphans.  In fact, dreams that once were part of a child’s hopes can be lost. And life finds a void without a forest of trees and memories and dreams. Mud Witch Boy of Ghost Canyon learns of the people’s problems and understands them but has a language all his own so they do not communicate.

The book starts with the creation of a primitive little boy in the wilderness who wanders to the prehistoric town of ancestors who are cave-dwellers. Each chapter begins with introductions about the boy in soulful poetry and illustrations. Mud Witch Boy of Ghost Canyon is from nature and communicates with grunts like children reared in the wilderness among animals, a feral child. Animals are friendly toward him because he is like them in his behaviors: smelling and scratching. Each day, the boy is growing more intelligent and trying to learn to act differently. However, the depravity of these people soon surfaces.  We see that they floundered into greed and wastefulness. The joys they could have were lost and disappeared with their former culture. They trick the trusting boy and animals and in such chaos they run away. For a while, the boy stays away from the townspeople and hides.

When Mud Witch Boy of Ghost Canyon returns he must teach these people what is missing in their lives. With great effort, Mud Witch Boy leads the children and adults to restore the trees and return people to dreams with the help of nature and the animals who contribute their gifts of knowledge.

The story is inspirational and heartwarming and suitable to people of all ages. Available at all booksellers. Mud Witch Boy of Ghost Canyon. Published by Outskirts Press, Inc. ISBN PB: 978-1-4327-3103-8, ISBN HB: 978-1-4327-1133-7.


[Review by Sharlet Liebel (c)2010]


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