cover image The Buffalo Jump

The Buffalo Jump

Peter Roop. Northland Publishing, $15.95 (28pp) ISBN 978-0-87358-616-0

In a Native American buffalo jump, a hunter lures a herd of buffalo to follow him, rouses them to a stampede pace (he's on foot, by the way) and jumps off a cliff: while he drops safely onto a narrow ledge in the cliff wall, the buffalo plummet over his head to their deaths below. Here, a Blackfoot boy named Little Blaze wishes to lead the buffalo jump, an act of bravery that would earn him his adult name. When his older brother is chosen instead, Little Blaze is resentful, but the brother trips and Little Blaze dashes to the rescue. Farnsworth's (The Christmas Menorahs) oil paintings meticulously depict the setting of broad sun-steeped plains, and his dramatic scenes of stampeding buffalo churning up clouds of dust add suspense. Neither the family tension or the climax of the hunt is terribly gripping: by romanticizing the Native American characters, in lines like the father's ""Come, my sons. The sun has shone on our tribe,"" Roop (coauthor of Off the Map: The Journals of Lewis and Clark) renders them wooden. Despite its weaknesses, the book keeps alive the memory of a traditional Native American practice. Ages 6-up. (Aug.)