The Precious Gift: A Navaho Creation Myth

Overview

First Man sends various animals to retrieve a drop of fresh water in order for him to create a stream or a lake in their parched land. But each one who tries fails, and their future is determined. Otter and beaver must live in the swampland; turtle and frog will dine on bugs. There seems to be no way to get the fresh water they need--until success comes from an unlikely source. Full color.

A retelling of part of a Navajo creation and evolution myth in which of all ...

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Overview

First Man sends various animals to retrieve a drop of fresh water in order for him to create a stream or a lake in their parched land. But each one who tries fails, and their future is determined. Otter and beaver must live in the swampland; turtle and frog will dine on bugs. There seems to be no way to get the fresh water they need--until success comes from an unlikely source. Full color.

A retelling of part of a Navajo creation and evolution myth in which of all the animals the lowly snail alone is responsible for bringing pure water to the new land.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This story's relevant ecological theme, plus the crisp retelling and bright, funky expressionist art, may, for some, justify the purchase of yet another creation title. "When the first people came from the underworld, it is said they came up through a reed in the ocean," Jackson (Boris the Boring Boar) begins. However, they have forgotten to bring potable water with them. First Man sends several creatures back to fetch water, but all fail except the lowly snail, who is rewarded with a water flask that remains on his back to this day. The story is clever in its explanation of how other creatures, such as the turtle and frog, acquired their attributes. Best of all, Hubbard's (Four Fur Feet) gouache illustrations, showing a terrain dotted with rainbow-colored foliage and framed by skies with snail-like whorls of clouds, effuse the savory freshness and vitality of a new-born world. Ages 4-8. (Apr.)
Children's Literature - Gisela Jernigan
In this unusual variant of the Navaho creation story, 'first man' and 'first woman,' after coming up from a reed in the ocean, ask various animals to bring them a drop of pure water so that they can create a good water supply. After several failures, little snail finally succeeds. The tale shows the importance of fresh water and also explains how snail got its shell and trail of slime. The paintings that illustrate the story are bright and executed in a Picasso-like style. Source notes are included.
School Library Journal
Gr 1-3-The creation myth of the Dineh is extremely complex. Jackson retells a variant of a small portion of it: the bringing of water to the arid Earth. First Man sends out a number of water-searching parties. Beaver and Otter play and forget their task: for this, they are condemned to "...live in the swampy areas of lakes and never know the pleasure of clear, fresh water." Frog and Turtle try their best, but the spring Frog finds is dirty, so First Man tells them they must "...dine on bugs and live where the water is muddy and unclear." Snail, however, finds fresh water. Unbeknownst to her, it leaks out of the flask as she crawls along, and she falls asleep. First Man then takes the last drop, sings a water chant, and creates a river. He rewards Snail with her shell home, and First Woman gives her a silvery, moist trail that serves as a reminder of the value of water. The moral arbitrariness of this outcome may trouble some readers, but the story does convey the message that water is precious. Hubbard's illustrations are colorful and idiosyncratic. Pages dominated by the thirsty tan of dry land alternate with the blue and green of water and sky. Stylized distortions of various sorts-lumpy animals, boneless humans, and fantasy plants-enliven the pages. There is nothing in the design, however, that alludes to Navaho culture.-Patricia (Dooley) Lothrop Green, St. George's School, Newport, RI
Kirkus Reviews
"When the first people came from the underworld, it is said they came up through a reed in the ocean" are the words of the strange and beautiful beginning of this strange and beautiful Navaho creation myth.

The first people have no water; different animals volunteer to go back to the underworld and fetch some, but all of them fail and all are punished; only the snail succeeds in bringing back one drop of water. From this drop, First Man makes a river. This is truly a new world, and the gouache illustrations live up to all the expectations raised by Jackson (Brown Cow, Green Grass, Yellow Mellow Sun, 1995, etc.) in her fluid, haunting text (for which she provides sources in her author's note). The palette is dominated by the warm orange-yellows of the desert and the cool green-blues of the ocean; what is singular about Hubbard's style is the idiosyncratic shapes into which all the creatures are transformed—oddly flat and amorphous and then shaded to give the effect of wafer-like thickness. These colorful, swirling compositions and the eloquent text will surely enrapture readers and listeners alike.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780689804809
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
  • Publication date: 4/1/1996
  • Pages: 40
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.08 (w) x 11.32 (h) x 0.50 (d)

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