cover image First Painter

First Painter

Kathryn Lasky, Dawn Sirett. DK Publishing (Dorling Kindersley), $16.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-7894-2578-2

Lasky (Sophie and Rose) lyrically and plausibly imagines what might have prompted the creativity of a young cave painter. When her mother, a Dream Catcher, dies while attempting to relieve their people of drought and famine, Mishoo, as the eldest daughter, inherits the position. In a narrative that evokes the rhythms of an ancient chant (""I have lived for ten moons of the Singing Grass, and now I am beginning to forget the rainDits sound, its shape, and how the water clouds gather like herds of wooly mammoths in the east""), Lasky paints the desperation of Mishoo's plight. A recurring dream with a nightly callDuttered by generations of Dream Catchers before herDurges the heroine to ""go to the cave of the she-tiger."" Baviera (A Boy Called Slow) deftly navigates a palette of earth tones to visually connect Mishoo's dream visions of her mother and female forebears with the paintings she draws in the she-tiger's cave. The design of the book and photographs of the art work together to make her animal subjects seem alive. Readers will come away from this tale believing in the unmistakable connection between creativity and survival, a message echoed in the artwork: as Mishoo emerges from the cave, the sky turns from dusty gray to ocean blue. Ages 7-up. (Sept.)