cover image Coyote America: A Natural & Supernatural History

Coyote America: A Natural & Supernatural History

Dan Flores. Basic, $27.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-465-05299-8

Flores (American Serengeti), emeritus professor of Western history at the University of Montana, looks at the coyote and its history on the North American continent in this educational volume. Having lived for a decade in the piñon-juniper mesas south of Santa Fe, N.Mex., “the evolutionary heartland of America’s native canines,” Flores considers the coyote’s howl “the original national anthem of North America”—one that dates back “nearly 1 million years.” He traces the animal’s roots, giving lessons on both physiology and mythology. “As a literary character,” Flores notes, the coyote is a “complex figure full of nuances of all sorts” as well as a “trickster who is forever falling for the oldest trick in the book.” Flores also presents accounts of coyotes in urban environments and their depictions in pop culture. For example, in Chicago during the 2007 heat wave, a coyote walked into a sandwich shop and jumped onto a freezer to cool down, to the surprise and amusement of employees and customers. Similarly, considerations of fictional characters such as Wile E. Coyote, introduced by Warner Bros. in 1949, provide entertaining counterpoints to the coyote’s status as “North America’s oldest surviving deity.” Flores’s mix of edification and entertainment is a welcome antidote to a creature so often viewed with fear. Illus. Agent: Melissa Chinchillo, Fletcher & Co. (June)