cover image Yudonsi


Robert J. Blake. Philomel Books, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-399-23320-3

Blake's (Akiak) tale of a contemporary Native American boy traffics less in character development than cultural stereotypes. Yusi, a member of a Southwestern tribe, is ""different"" and ""want[s] everyone to know it,"" too. So he spray-paints, draws and even carves his ""tag,"" or name, all around his canyon village. The people are alarmed: they believe the canyon is alive and ""would take care of the people only as long as they cared for the canyon."" When Yusi will not stop, they begin to call him Yudonsi (""you don't see"") and to ignore him; to retaliate, Yusi decides to paint an enormous tag on the canyon wall. The fierce storm that follows (caused, it is implied, by Yusi's hubris) brings the tribe members together and, predictably, forces Yusi to ""see"" the interconnectedness of all things--an epiphany he expresses by picking up a flute and playing ""a song that he had never heard before... the song of the ages."" Blake's rugged, naturalistic paintings, thick oils laid on canvas with a palette knife, are particularly strong at capturing the Southwestern landscape in all its shades of red and brown, yellow and gray; his carefully cadenced prose tells Yusi's story with a clarity and directness that is often compelling. But the unrelenting focus on message is likely to leave many readers cold. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)