cover image The Day the Stones Walked

The Day the Stones Walked

T. A. Barron, , illus. by William Low. . Philomel, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-399-24263-2

Ably balancing fact and legend, Barron (the Great Tree of Avalon trilogy) sets this dramatic, crisply told tale on Easter Island centuries ago. Pico’s mother expresses alarm at the ominous clouds above, observing that they are “just like the ones I saw as a child, right before the Great Wave.” As she hastens to warn the villagers, the woman dispatches her son to tell his father to flee “to the highest caves.” Pico finds the man on a ridge above the sea, carving an ear on one of the moai , giant ancient stones with hand-carved faces. The lad is skeptical of old stories maintaining that the moai come to life and help islanders in times of trouble. Yet his father, who is a believer, refuses to hide from what is indeed an approaching tsunami and tells his son that the imposing stones “are our ancestors. Our protectors”. As the water rushes to the shore, Pico tries again to warn his father, but is swept up by the wave. Frantically trying to survive underwater, the boy grabs on to a submerged moai and it suddenly seems to shift beneath him and carry him to dry ground. Low (Henry and the Kite Dragon ) deftly integrates light and shadow into his grainy paintings, which strikingly contrast the fright of the flailing, near-drowning boy and the steadfast, comforting presence of the powerful stones. In a concluding note, Barron sheds historical light on the mystery of Easter Island’s moai and on theories behind the “self-inflicted environmental disaster” that may have wiped out the island’s original inhabitants. Ages 6-up. (May)