In this gracefully narrated, arrestingly illustrated myth originating from the Karuk people of Northwest California, the animals have no fire to keep them warm. Wise old Coyote devises a plan to steal the fire that the miserly Yellow Jacket sisters guard in their mountaintop home. Using his renowned skill as trickster, Coyote manages to purloin a burning piece of oak. Though the evil sisters follow in pursuit, Coyote and the other animals execute a flawless relay, transporting the ember back to their home ground, where a willow tree swallows it. Clever Coyote once again solves the dilemma, showing how to get fire from the willow by rubbing two of its branches together. London's tale unravels seamlessly, subtly revealing the diverse personalities of the animals and the merits of working together. As in other books she has illustrated Long creates impressively realistic animal characters with an inventive measure of whimsy: Mountain Lion and Bear sport traditional Karuk necklaces and Coyote wears a woven cap and bearskin. This spirited Native American legend is in good hands. Ages 4-8.
AMERICAN BOOKSELLER, Pick of the Lists, March 1993
It will take a lot of searching to find a more beautifully illustrated or carefully researched adaptation than this retelling of the Karuk tale of how fire came to the people. The tale itself suspensefully unfolds, as the animals steal the fire and claim it for themselves, but the detail of its artwork enliven it from cover to cover.
SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL, August 1993
Long ago, the animal people had no fire. They were cold and miserable and ate their food uncooked. Then that wise old trickster, Coyote, got an idea. If they al1 worked together, they could steal fire from the Yellow Jacket sisters who guarded it jealously in their home on the snowy mountain at the end of the world. So begins this Native American story of the origin of firemaking, a tale that features cooperation (even the lowly Measuring Worm plays a pivotal role) and a hair-raising chase down the mountainside. Told in the fluid style of the oral tradition of Northern California's Karuk people it has sure fire appeal for even the wiggliest story hour listeners. Older readers, too, wil1 find much to interest them, as the concise prose delivers a great deal of cultural wisdom, tradition, and humor. The double-spread water-color illustrations burst with action, and are remarkably accurate to the natural world of California's upper Klamath River, home of the Karuk. Many details of traditional life are incorporated in the paintings, including Native plank houses, basketry, cooking methods, and jewelry. A fascinating cross-cultural comparison of trickster stories can be made with Gerald McDermot's Raven. Culturally acuarate and artistcally excellent, Fire Race will enrich collections everywhere.
KIRKUS REVIEWS, April 1, 1993
The Yellow Jackets are known to keep fire on top of their snowy mountain; boldly, Coyote offers to "make them pretty" if they close their eyes. With a coal, he marks them in black, then seizes a burning brand from them and dashes away. When the pursuing Yellow Jackets catch up, Coyote passes the fire to Eagle, who gives it to Mountain Lion, and so on until Frog, after hiding it in his mouth, spits it into a willow. It's not lost: Coyote shows the animals how to make fire by rubbing willow sticks together. Written with the help of Lanny Pinola, a Pomo/Miwok storyteller, London's relaxed version of this tale from northwest California has a pleasantly conversational style. Long's lively illustrations depict the animals and their habitat in intriguing detail; the text, lightly bordered with Native American motifs, is nicely integrated into the design. An attractive addition. Afterword by Julian Lang, a member of th