Magic Weaver of Rugs: A Tale of the Navajo

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Two women from a starving tribe go to the Spider Woman for help, and learn to build looms, dye wool, and weave with their very souls. Not until they return home, teach their tribe to weave, and begin to prosper, do they realize the value of their skills. A dramatic explanation of the origin of Navajo rugs and the skills of their weavers.

When two Navajo women pray for help for their cold and hungry people, Spider Woman teaches them ...

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Overview

Two women from a starving tribe go to the Spider Woman for help, and learn to build looms, dye wool, and weave with their very souls. Not until they return home, teach their tribe to weave, and begin to prosper, do they realize the value of their skills. A dramatic explanation of the origin of Navajo rugs and the skills of their weavers.

When two Navajo women pray for help for their cold and hungry people, Spider Woman teaches them how to weave.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In their second collaboration, Oughton and Desimini ( How the Stars Fell into the Sky ) bring to life another tale from the Navajo, this time explaining the origins of weaving and the famous Navajo rug. ``In the beginning,'' hunger and cold are the source of constant worry until two women seek help through prayer. They are answered by Spider Woman, a forceful figure in shimmering emerald who radiates strength. She magically erects an enormous loom, then leaves the women with instructions: ``Hold only beautiful thoughts in your mind while you weave'' and ``weave with your very souls.'' Fearful of trickery, the literal-minded women disobey, but the gift of weaving is theirs anyway. Oughton's fluid prose, studded with images (``white wolf of fear,'' ``sun-blistered desert sand''), has a poetic intensity, mirrored by Desimini's lush if dark illustrations. These gleam with an otherworldiness, evoking an atmosphere of mythical wonder, rippling as if painted on fabric. Her Spider Woman, elfin yet godlike, severe yet generous, is especially well rendered. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)
Children's Literature - Susie Wilde
Oughton retells a Navajo tale of two women motivated by the pain of their cold, starving families to pray for help. Spider Woman answers their prayers. Using her godlike powers, Spider Woman pulls elements of the earth together to make a loom and wool and instructs the women to "hold only beautiful thoughts in your mind while you weave a rug." Daunted by fear and lack of trust, the women weave an imperfect rug and are banished. And yet, Spider Woman has given the women a gift-their knowledge of weaving distracts them from their suffering and later saves their people. Lisa Desimini illustrates with a rich palette that evokes powerful emotions.
School Library Journal
Gr 2-5-Sources for this story are not cited, and therein may lie some of its weaknesses. The Navajo people are starving and cold. Two women travel out into the mesa to pray for help. Here they encounter Spider Woman, a grand and frightening deity who teaches them how to weave rugs and dye wool. When the women tire of the long, hard task, they intentionally make mistakes that will free their souls from the rug. It is only after they return to their people and teach them their newly acquired skills that Spider Woman's gift becomes apparent. Intensely colored, stylized pastel illustrations capture the grandeur and mood of a mythic time. The focus on women and a female deity is refreshing and long overdue. However, inconsistencies mar this book. The weavers, who don't know a thing about cloth or dyeing, are wearing brightly colored post-conquest skirts and blouses. The rugs that the people weave are not especially Navajo, but rather generic striped blankets. And the colors, while attractive, do not reflect the Southwestern landscape. Such discrepancies illustrate the problems inherent in using borrowed cultural material.-Carolyn Polese, Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA
Elizabeth Bush
. This sober and sophisticated tale--another fine collaboration from the gifted team that produced "How the Stars Fell into the Sky" (1992)--recounts how the Navajo came to acquire their weaving skill. During a period of hunger and cold, "when the white wolf of fear crept among them," two women leave the tribe to pray for aid. Spider Woman obliquely answers their prayer by building a loom and teaching them how to prepare wool and fashion a magnificent patterned rug, cautioning them to "hold only beautiful thoughts in your mind while you weave." But the tedium of the chore and concern for their hungry families cause the women to break faith with Spider Woman, who reproaches and dismisses them, keeping the rug. But the skill is now their own, and the tribe prospers through weaving and trade. Only then do the women understand Spider Woman's lesson. Returning to give thanks, "they called and called to her. But she did not come." Desimini's surreal paintings underscore the other worldly nature of the encounter. Eerily lit landscapes blanketed in shadow are suggestive of sacred place and time. And Spider Woman is no gentle earth mother but, rather, a complex, powerful woman. This wild-haired and sharp-toothed goddess hurls rocks and summons rain. But surprisingly delicate fingers also coax the colors from the whole world into her yarn. Spider Woman's web, cast around trees, sheep, and the earth itself, is at once her magical tool and her embrace.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780395661406
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 3/28/1994
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.26 (w) x 10.31 (h) x 0.45 (d)

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