cover image Dancing Teepees: Poems of American Indian Youth

Dancing Teepees: Poems of American Indian Youth

Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve. Holiday House, $17.95 (31pp) ISBN 978-0-8234-0724-8

An infant's first cry is one of the many potent images that leap out of this collection of poems recorded from the oral traditions of several American Indian tribes. ``Tble,'' the title of a poem and a baby girl, is ``named for the cold star / appearing after the blizzard ceased its wail.'' ``Sun, Moon, Stars,'' a poem from an Omaha ceremony for the newborn cries, ``Hear this mother! / A new life has come among you. / Make its life smooth.'' A Pauite cradle song evokes familiar lullaby refrains: ``Coo . . . ah . . . Coo! / Little Dove, / The wind is rocking / Thy nest in the pine bough, / My arms are rocking / Thy nest, little Dove. / Coo . . . ah . . . coo!'' An Osage chant prepares a young man for his first buffalo hunt; the Mescalero Apache contribute ``The Four Corners of the Universe,'' which declares to girls, ``Be strong. For you are the mother of a people.'' Gammell works in an earthy vein unlike anything he has attempted before. Giving himself over to the patterns and themes suggested by each snippet or riddle-like verse, he scratches out strong woven symbols in colored pencil, or paints watercolor scenes on dappled pages resembling animal skins. Many artistic styles are represented, as if he gathered his sources from as many tribes as Sneve did her poems. Like a trail of stepping stones, this exquisite collection may lead readers to other sources, such as the works of Paul Goble. Together, poet/compiler and artist offer small but satisfying glimpses of some of the rich and varied Indian lore which--if abundant--has been mostly overlooked. Ages 6-9. (Mar.)