cover image Buffalo Dance: A Blackfoot Legend

Buffalo Dance: A Blackfoot Legend

Nancy Van Laan. Little Brown and Company, $15.95 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-316-89728-0

A satisfying multicultural effort, like Van Laan and Vidal's first collaboration ( The Legend of El Dorado ), this retelling of a complex legend posits a mythical origin for the sacred buffalo dance of the Blackfoot people. Long ago, a young woman saves her village from starvation when she promises herself to the chief of the buffalo on condition that the herd enter the hunters' piskun (trap). Both buffalo and maiden keep their promises, and the villagers rejoice at the opportunities for food and warm furs. The girl's bereft father, however, seeks her out, only to be trampled by the buffalo. She restores him to life by magic, and the buffalo, suitably impressed, then teach her the buffalo dance, so that they can come back to life when killed by men. Powerful themes of sacrifice and rebirth dominate the legend, whose action proceeds with a magical logic that may confuse younger children. Vidal's formal, even stiff, but strongly focused color pencil drawings face pages of text decorated with American Indian pictographs and bright geometric borders; the climactic dance of the buffalo stands alone. Ages 5-9. (Sept.)