Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
When members of the Ojibwe tribe begin to disappear mysteriously, the white-hairs, or elders, believe that a fearsome Windigo is to blame. But they are stumped about how to vanquish a shape-shifting giant, until a small girl suggests a plan. Not only does the resolution take care of the Windigo, but the curse of the Windigo also provides an explanation for why mosquitoes bite. Wood (Old Turtle) spins a taut and suspenseful tale, and deftly establishes cultural context by incorporating evocative Ojibwe names and phrases. Couch's (The Man-in-the-Moon in Love) stylized, complexly textured illustrations in acrylic and colored pencil create a dense atmosphere, taking readers to another time and place. The gnarled, craggy faces of the elders resemble wooden masks; the pictures' burnished tones and murky shadows add a mysterious, sometimes sinister edge to the legend. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Armin A. Brott
One by one, in the land of the Ojibwe, the people are disappearing into the forest. One of the village elders suspects that a Windigo, a terrible giant with the power to turn himself into anything he wants, is devouring his people. The villagers are scared: should they fight? Should they run? each option seems more hopeless than the next-until a girl named Morning Star devised a plan to capture the monster. This ancient native American tale is equal parts suspense and humor, and Greg Couch's luminous illustrations take us deep inside the land-and the hearts-of the Ojibwe.
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-When the white-haired elders surmise that the Windigo-"the terrible giant of the forest"-is abducting some of the People, they adopt a young girl's scheme to trap him in the bottom of a pit. The burning embers they throw into it destroy the spirit being, but not before he threatens to "come back again and again and again-and I'll eat you, and you, and you, and your children and their grandchildren, forever and ever!" To prevent that, at night the People scatter the Windigo's ashes. However, these ashes return the following summer as mosquitoes, eating the People as the creature had promised. Wood cites an unnamed Ojibwe woman as his source for a version of this folktale. The text appears in large blocks, giving the impression of a lengthy story, when, for the most part, the narrative moves briskly and suspensefully. Unfortunately, a design decision forces the placement of certain sections of text over distracting backgrounds. The artist's atmospheric, heavily stylized acrylic and pencil illustrations lack variety. The pictures are dominated by red (many scenes take place at night in front of a fire) and gray tones, swirling shapes, and elongated tree trunks; they leave nothing to a child's imagination, including the fiery form of the burning Windigo. Where there is high demand for scary folktales or pourquoi stories, or where there is regional interest, this book is an acceptable purchase.-Ellen Fader, Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR
Wood (Northwoods Cradle Song, p. 302, etc.) has wisely chosen to adapt a Windigo tale that explains nature, rather than one that induces nightmares (the Windigo figures in north woods tales as everything from a monster to a symbol of men driven wild by the wilderness itself; tales about them make for classic "ghost stories" for around the campfire) for this book. When a band of Ojibwe notices that some hunters, then an old grandmother, have disappeared, the elders of the tribe are consulted. One of them recalls the story of the Windigo, who long ago caused people to vanish in a similar way. At the tribal council, the suggestion to trap the Windigo in a large pit seems the only solution. When the Windigo falls into the trap, the tribe finishes him off with fire. The Windigo's dying curseto come back and eat the tribe and all future generationsseems to come true the following summer, when mosquitoes plague the tribe with bites.
The changing seasons flow through this story like a slow river, linking the plot to nature's calendar. Couch's hazy style of illustration portrays the north woods as a setting where possibility always lurks in the mist, a perfect place for tales to grow.