High atop the ancient northwest forests, Raven, the classic trickster of fable, dreams about the devastation of his homeland. The creature pleads for a song to reverse this nightmare--``The world's spirit answered. Every song must have a singer. And each singer must find one who understands his song.'' The early people whom Raven creates ``from warm brown spring earth'' distrust the prankster and do not believe his premonitions. Later, white settlers and loggers cannot even hear his song. Finally, a girl not only hears, but convinces her father to stop logging the timeless woodland. The evil owner of the forest trees stones Raven, whose blood waters the earth and imbues all forest life with the song. In pointing up contemporary issues by way of a strained, moralistic fable, the narrative falters in its elegiac flight. Presented in an epilogue, the pivotal song's wordy lyrics may sound a flat note for many readers. However, Kastner's ( You're My Nikki ; I Want to Go Home ) strikingly textured, mood-expressive watercolors--perhaps this artist's finest work to date--make the book soar. In both spot illustrations (often set against the larger paintings) and full-spread art, these haunting scenes contrast the majesty of nature with the appurtenances of encroaching civilization. Ages 5-8. (Mar.)
Older picture book readers will enjoy this emotionally provocative testimony to the wonder of earth's beauty. Luenn wraps poetry and prose around the plot of her book, Song for the Ancient Forest. Using the Indian image of Raven as a wise-trickster, Luenn depicts him as mythic messenger. Raven, troubled by a dream of desolation, carries forth the powerful song of the earth, searching across time for to a listener who understands. Full-page paintings by Kastner correspond to the range of strong emotions in the text. The majesty of the Northwest's ancient forests, the somber desolation of land stripped by logging, and the bright transcendence of spirit are all successfully rendered by fitting colors and brush-strokes.
A cautionary tale that spans prehistory to the present-day conflict between loggers and conservationists in the Pacific Northwest. Suffice it to say that Raven has a bad dream about the destruction of the ancient forests and tries (mostly in vain) to get someone to heed his melodious message. Although the story line is muddled, the trickster and the environmental theme have appeal. Even better are the attractive acrylic paintings, rendered in a variety of earth tones, that display a fine handling of both perspective and light and shadow.