cover image The Miser on the Mountain: A Nisqually Legend of Mount Rainier

The Miser on the Mountain: A Nisqually Legend of Mount Rainier

Nancy Luenn. Sasquatch Books, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-57061-082-0

This traditional Native American legend lends an intriguing Pacific Northwest slant to the universal theme of the pitfalls of greed. Set against the backdrop of Washington's Mount Rainier (""Ta-co-bet,"" in the Nisqually tongue), the story introduces Latsut, a miserly man who loves ""hiaqua"" (barter shells) above all else. Too cheap to host feasts or give his wife shells for a necklace, he eagerly complies when his totem, the elk, sends him on a quest to climb Ta-co-bet ""and learn the true meaning of wealth."" The spirits have more in store for Latsut than hiaqua, however, and unleash the furies of nature to teach him a lesson. Humbled, he survives and returns home to find that many years have passed; his newfound wisdom and appreciation for life earn him the respect and love of his people. Luenn (Nessa's Story) weaves Nisqually words and images into the text (Latsut listens to his totem ""taut as the string of a bow,"" and searches for the signs his elk mentioned, ""beyond stood a stone like a ripe camas bulb""), but it's Morgan's (The Squiggle) sweeping brushstrokes that command the pages, summoning all the grandeur of the Northwest in the lush evergreens of the forest and deep blues of sky and water in her gouache-and-ink illustrations. With its important teaching, this picture book will likely appeal to children far beyond the Northwest region. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)