Ancient Thunder

Leo Yerxa, Author . Groundwood/Anansi $18.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-88899-746-3

Yerxa (Last Leaf, First Snowflake to Fall ), a Canadian of Ojibway ancestry, celebrates the relationship between horses and the native people of the Great Plains in a series of three-mystically themed montages. At the center of each picture is a paper fringed shirt, crafted from handmade paper and modeled on those worn by the First Peoples; the shirt serves as both backdrop and landscape for Yerxa's lean, schematic portraits of horses, usually depicted in groups at full gallop. Although there is some sense of time passing (the book begins "at the rise of the Strawberry Moon" and ends at daybreak), there is no attempt to tell a linear story. In both their content and feel, the compositions feel more akin to cave paintings (the horses especially so), and evoke a sense of wonder. The text, which conspicuously avoids the word "horse," echoes this mood with its series of short, chant-like phrases: "Born... to run/ with the first/ sparkles of/ new daylight/ Over a sea of grass/ Chasing the buffalo/ And the antelope, too/ Soaring on eagles' wings." Although each individual spread makes a strong impression, the overall visual rhythm begins to feel rather monotonous. Younger readers will likely tune out quickly, but older readers—especially aspiring artists and those interested in native cultures—may well find much to linger over. All ages. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 10/23/2006
Release date: 09/01/2006
Paperback - 40 pages - 978-1-55498-127-4
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