cover image The Sea Lion

The Sea Lion

Ken Kesey. Viking Children's Books, $14.95 (480pp) ISBN 978-0-670-83916-2

Eemook, the tribe's crippled spoonmaker, has secretly carved a magnificent spoon-handle, which he shows to his friend Princess Shoola. In a mock fight over the object, the pair angers the spirits of the deep. Soon the Lion of the Sea, disguised as a handsome chieftain, arrives and captivates all the women, including Shoola. The monster makes his true identity known only to Eemook, who uses the spoon-handle's magic power to save the tribe. But the beast has already impregnated all the women save Shoola. Their children, left on the rocks to die, become the sea lions of the coast. Employing evocative images and clever phrases, Kesey demonstrates his customarily keen sense for language that so distinguished One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest . But over-emphasis of Eemook's outcast position within the tribe diverts the reader's attention from the powerful relationship between man and nature that is the crux of the story. Also, allusions to sex and drugs might prove awkward for younger children. Waldman's ( Nessa's Fish ; The Highwayman ) stylized borders and dramatic likenesses add an ornamental feel to the pages of this longer folktale. All ages. (Sept.)