Trickster and the Fainting Birds

Howard Norman, Author, Tom Pohrt, Illustrator Harcourt Children's Books $20 (96p) ISBN 978-0-15-200888-8
Sophisticated pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations grace this elegant, slightly oversize collection of seven Algonquian tales. Norman's (The Girl Who Dreamed Only Geese) pungent retellings, redolent of the oral tradition from which they spring, make use of a strong conversational thread (""Trickster was sleeping poorly. Well, to tell the truth, he wasn't sleeping at all""). The images are vigorous (""close-eye sleet""; ""snow-glare light"") and the dialogue sounds freshly minted. Trickster is a beguiling bounder--a loner, mischief-maker, braggart and a cheat besides. Whether he's duping Fox out of a duck dinner (""Trickster and the Shut-Eye Dancers""), dealing with a complaining bird (""Trickster Tells Whiskey Jack the Truth"") or getting his comeuppance for eating a village's entire catch of fish (""Trickster and the Clacking Sleeves""), his adventures make for amusing reading. Pohrt (Crow and Weasel) grounds the tales visually in the marshes and frozen forests of the far north, and his animal studies are meticulously executed. The precise, delicate lines of his drawings, coupled with his slightly moody, sepia-toned palette, suggest antique etchings. Beautifully designed and presented, this admirable book expands the area of Native American folklore in a dignified and welcome way. Ages 8-up. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/30/1999
Release date: 09/01/1999
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