cover image When God Made the Dakotas

When God Made the Dakotas

Tim Kessler, , illus. by Paul Morin. . Eerdmans, $17 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8028-5275-5

In this original creation myth,first-time children's author and North Dakota native Kessler imagines how the Great Spirit formed his beloved home state (and its neighbor to the south). When the Great Spirit, Wakantanka, comes to the "final empty space" on the edge of the earth, Dakotas medicine man Woksape is waiting for him. Woksape is eager to secure a special land for his people. But when Woksape requests the various features the land should have, Wakantanka informs him that all the desirable mountains, forests, lakes, streams and temperate climes have already been spoken for. At last, Woksape says that he will be happy with anything Wakantanka chooses to fashion. Pleased by the man's unselfish response, Wakantanka creates the prairie land that is known today. Kessler's inspirational tale pays homage to the territory's history as home to a strong Native American nation; "Wakan tanka" appears in much Native American mythology (though he is more closely associated with the Lakota Sioux than the Dakotas, a sister branch of the Great Sioux Nation). And although they are likened to each other, Wakan tanka is not the same as the Christian image of God, as this book's title suggests. Additionally, the story straddles a fine line between sounding like a defense of what the Dakotas, as a people, had to settle for and an appreciation of what the Dakotas were given. Morin's (The Orphan Boy ) acrylics, saturated with color, convey a sense of awe and gravitas that will surely open readers' eyes to many of nature's treasures. Ages 5-up. (Feb.)