cover image A Portrait of Spotted Deer's Grandfather

A Portrait of Spotted Deer's Grandfather

Amy Littlesugar. Albert Whitman & Company, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8075-6622-0

In this historical picture book, Littlesugar (Marie in Fourth Position) imagines a visit from the white portrait painter, George Catlin, to a Chippewa tribe in Minnesota in 1836. Catlin wishes to paint Moose Horn, but the once-famous warrior is resistant: ""If I give my face to the Medicine Painter, he may take my spirit."" After observing Catlin at his work, a prophetic dream visit from his younger self and a consultation with the Great Spirit, Manito, Moose Horn believes he can keep his spirit even if his likeness is on the painter's canvas. Young history buffs may be disappointed not to know more about the painter whose mission is to capture a Native American life that's changing ""too fast even for the Medicine Painter's magic brushes,"" but Moose Horn's struggle to come to a decision is convincing. Less effective are deChristopher's (Deer in the Hollow) paintings; although true to Catlin's palette (a reproduction of one of Catlin's 1836 portraits appears in the foreword), the faces of the characters are inconsistent and the landscapes at times seem unfinished. The standout portrait is the one of George Catlin as Moose Horn observes the ""sadness"" in the white man's eyes. Still, this introduction serves a worthwhile purpose, as it will likely prompt children to find out more about a fascinating man and a disappearing way of life. Ages 7-11. (Sept.)