cover image Two Bear Cubs: A Miwok Legend from California's Yosemite Valley

Two Bear Cubs: A Miwok Legend from California's Yosemite Valley

Robert D. San Souci. Yosemite Association, $14.95 (36pp) ISBN 978-0-939666-87-4

In this Southern Sierra Miwok legend set in the Yosemite Valley, two spirited bear cubs venture beyond their mother's watchful eye and fall asleep on a stone slab. As the two nap, the stone mysteriously grows into a mountainous tower (known today as El Capitan). Mother Grizzly, aided by a posse of animal friends, finds them, but rescue attempts are thwarted by high-altitude winds and nearly vertical walls. At last the animals skeptically accept an offer of help from Measuring Worm. Inch by inch, Tu-tok-a-na scales the wall, and then rises as well in the proud posse's estimation as he leads the cubs down. The San Souci brothers (The Legend of Scarface) unite here in playful symmetry. Both text and illustrations reflect a belief in folkloric ancestors who were half animal, half human. The narrative is propelled by actions familiar to children (the cubs ""race, wrestle [and] play hide-and-seek"") and punctuated by unfamiliar Miwok words. Watercolor illustrations portray gently anthropomorphized animals in spare but traditional garb (the females wear buckskin skirts) and with amusing, humanlike poses and facial expressions. The illustrator keeps his palette sunny, draining the potential terror from the story. Endnotes concerning Miwok customs add heft to this expertly rendered tale. Ages 5-9. (Nov.)