It is not often that a collection of folktales comes along that is packaged so that a child can have the fullest sense of the story. But that is the case with this book. It brings together twelve tales of the Southwest. Most feature the infamous trickster Coyote. Coyote embodies both wisdom and folly, both good and evil. Many of the tales have an aura that includes the spirit of the land and the mysticism of its ancestors. The preface explains the geography of the Southwest, describes the native peoples that lived there, and the development of their folktales. The illustrations are beautiful renditions of each tale. They are painted with vibrant colors typically associated with the Southwest. The book can be read independently by older readers, but even young readers will enjoy having the stories read to them. The book also includes a glossary and a short pronunciation guide for masculine and feminine word endings.
School Library Journal
Gr 3-5A dozen brief stories mimic the flavor of traditional tales, with none of the meat. They are undeveloped in theme, plot, and character, leaving readers unsatisfied and bewildered. For example, in the title selection, a shepherdess makes friends with the coyotes, who kill and eat one of her sheep. Then, to escape her boring life, the girl runs off to live with the coyotes. The remaining tales seem similarly unconnected, rambling, and motiveless. Bryer's pictures, however, are luscious and savory. Each primitive painting is full of color, detail, and action, framed with borders containing designs of rugs, tinwork, feathers, birds, animals, and plants. The artist has taken the traditional devices of the Southwest and made them her own. The same is not true for Wood's stories. Too bad, as the stunning art deserves attention.Ruth Semrau, formerly at Lovejoy School, Allen, TX
Julie Yates Walton
. As Wood notes in her preface, the coyote is "the embodiment of the great [American] Southwestern spirit, surviving against impossible odds." In many of these 12 original stories, the coyote is a central figure of survival amid the clash of Indian, Spanish, and Anglo cultures. The title story launches the book's exploration of conflict. When a sheepherder's daughter watches a pack of coyotes eat one of her father's sheep, she cries, "Those are my father's sheep!" and a coyote replies, "It's our nature to eat sheep." Sympathetic to the coyotes, the girl flees with the pack and is said to be heard singing with them every new moon. The stories vary greatly, but all are compellingly written, inventive, and tinged with mysticism and melancholy over an environment scarred by warring human interests. The striking, oil-on-linen illustrations also convey a complexity of viewpoint. Both primitive and ornate, traditional and contemporary, the paintings somehow wrestle the southwestern cliches of cactus and howling coyotes into emblems of great dignity.