cover image The Legend of the Cranberry: A Paleo-Indian Tale

The Legend of the Cranberry: A Paleo-Indian Tale

Ellin Greene. Simon & Schuster, $15 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-671-75975-9

Drawing on the folktales of the early Delaware Indians, Greene refurbishes a legend that unites two unlikely subjects: mastodons and cranberries. In a deliberately paced, detail-rich style like that of an oral storyteller, Greene describes the Yah-qua-whee, the prehistoric, elephant-like inhabitants of North America, and their helpfulness to the earliest people there. Suddenly (and in Greene's retelling, inexplicably), the Yah-qua-whee turn violently against the humans. Acting on counsel from the Great Spirit, the People trap the Yah-qua-whee in pits and destroy them. In the spring, the soft, blood-soaked ground sprouts bitter, blood-colored berries--the first cranberry bog. Greene's unusual tale, concluding with Indians bringing cranberries to the first Thanksgiving, is sure to enlighten any seasonal collection; her note at the end is also particularly informative. Sneed's full-spread watercolors, more sober and more dramatic than those for Turkey in the Straw (see review above), suggest the terrifying size of the lunging behomoths, the roar of the battle and the placidity of the pink sea of cranberry blossoms. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)