cover image The Eagle's Gift

The Eagle's Gift

Rafe Martin. Putnam Publishing Group, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-399-22923-7

In this hollow retelling of an Inuit myth, a boy meets a mysterious eagle-man who offers him the hope of finding his lost brothers, if he accepts a challenge: ""Will you learn the gift of joy?"" In fact, it's an ultimatum: if he turns Eagle down, he can never return to his people. Hence, the boy, Marten is whisked off to Eagle's mountain home, where he is taken under the command of the infirm Mother Eagle. Her first directive is to build a feast hall (""For there to be joy people must learn to join together""). Next, the boy must learn to dance, sing and tell stories (""Let your drum beat. Let your words soar... Link moments together into tales and know joy""). Martin's (The Rough-Face Girl) wooden dialogue and narration report but never show the process by which the boy comes to each of the Eagle's gifts. Nor, in perhaps the book's greatest disappointment, does Marten--upon completion of his endless tasks--get to see his brothers. The book's strength is Kiuchi's (The Lotus Seed) painterly Arctic landscapes in ocean blues, teals and lavender that offer panoramic views of caribou running and whales leaping (when the text gives him license to break away from the dark interiors). For all its discussion of joy, there's very little to be found here. Ages 5-up. (Sept.)