cover image Ishi's Tale of Lizard

Ishi's Tale of Lizard

Ishi. Farrar Straus Giroux, $15 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-374-33643-1

A folktale dictated in 1911 by the man called Ishi, lone survivor of the Yana people of northern California, comprises the main text of this unusual book. In it, the man called Lizard (and portrayed as a man-lizard by artist Roth) must fight a bear and enemies called the Yawi in order to save a friend and continue his work of arrow-making. There is a formalism in the short phrases and repetition reminiscent of Greek drama. The author's informed comments, in both her acknowledgments and her introduction, serve as a lucid segue to the fragments of story that follow. Roth's boldly primitivist paper collages are graphically effective. Though this elegantly packaged book contains many praiseworthy elements, it's difficult to imagine a child being moved by it. Lacking a childlike viewpoint, the work may be better suited, for example, to adults with a taste for the strange and not in need of a story. Ages 8-up. (Oct.)