21 American Indian storytellers with graphic artists, editor Matt
Dembicki has produced a spectacular color anthology of trickster
Dembicki and his contributing artists have taken pains to respect
the cultural integrity of the stories, their visuals never feel
politically correct or preachy. Instead, reading this book creates
the same excitement that discovering the Brothers Grimm or Italo
Calvino's "Italian Folktales" does, only with pictures
as well as words.
will appeal to graphic novel lovers, folklore enthusiasts, storytellers,
young adult readers and everyone interested in the many American
coyote, rabbit, raven or man, a trickster is a slippery character
to define, which is part of his power and appeal. He can be foolish,
greedy, venal, impetuous and disruptive, wrecking both his schemes
and the plans of others.
for example, the greedy figures in Aesop's didactic fables, who
always come to ruin, tricksters sometimes win, walking away with
meat they didn't deserve, as in Yu'pik Eskimo tale-spinner John
Active's "Raven the Trickster," illustrated by Jason Copland.
This feels like the hard-earned wisdom of people who know that nature
doesn't always play fair.
many cultures acknowledge, the trickster is woven into the fabric
of our world. Sometimes his actions have created our world.
"Coyote and the Pebbles," told by Caddo Nation member
Dayton Edmonds and illustrated by Micah Farritor, frantic Coyote
trips at just the right moment to mess up the sculpting of light
(i.e., placement of stars) in the sky, giving us the celestial hodgepodge
we have now. In "Waynaboozhoo and the Geese," told by
Anishinaabe language teacher Dan Jones of Minnesota and illustrated
by Michael J. Auger, the young trickster's attempt to snare a flock
of geese for supper results in an entertaining explanation of why
the birds fly in a V pattern.
stars so often as a trickster in these tales it makes me see Jimmy
Carter's killer-rabbit incident with more sympathy. In "Rabbit
and the Tug of War," he bests a pair of buffalo; in "Giddy
Up, Wolfie," he vies for a gorgeous wolf bride; in "Rabbit's
Choctaw Tall Tale," he learns a lesson about ice fishing the
a reminder that we are not dipping into the Western Romantic tradition
here, read Eirik Thorsgard's "When Coyote Decided to Get Married,"
illustrated by Rand Arrington. Coyote's search for a bride shares
elements with Cinderella's story, but the story's chilling ending
makes it unlikely that Disney will be calling for an option any
the cartoonish artwork of Jerry Carr and Pat Lewis to the arty realism
of Farritor, the illustrators offer a pleasing variety of approaches,
styles and color palettes. Special visual nods go to Cherokee artist
Roy Boney Jr. for his painterly desertscapes in "Horned Toad
Lady & Coyote," and Paul Zdepski's hallucinatory Hawaiian
demons in "Puapualenalena, Wizard Dog of Waipi'o Valley."