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Trickster: Native American Tales, A Graphic Collection Paperback – June 1, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
These 21 folktales, created by pairing Native storytellers with a variety of artists, feature creatures explaining how things came to be, like islands or stars, or animals playing tricks on one another. Often, the trickster, while trying to take the lazy way, outwits himself, especially when it involves Coyote. In other tales, Raven does whatever people tell him not to do, but ends up with a free meal anyway, and Rabbit tricks some buffalo and wolves and is tricked by Fox into losing his tail. Many of the stories, some of which involve tribespeople as well as animals, are told through captions, as though listening to an elder and envisioning the images he describes. Micah Farritor's art in Coyote and the Pebbles and Dembicki's in Azban (Raccoon) and the Crayfish are standouts in their animal images. The diverse styles are presented in lavish color in this thick, handsome volume. The short collection of contributor bios at the end is a helpful resource for finding more about the artist's credits or the writer's heritage. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 5 Up—More than 40 storytellers and cartoonists have contributed to this original and provocative compendium of traditional folklore presented in authentic, colorful, and engaging sequential art. The stories are drawn from a variety of Native peoples across North America, and so the trickster character appears variously as Rabbit, a raccoon, Coyote, and in other guises; landscapes, clothing and rhythms of speech and action also vary in keeping with distinct traditions. Realistic, impressionistic, painterly, and cartoon styles of art are employed to echo and announce the tone of each tale and telling style, making this a rich visual treasure as well as cultural trove. Contributors include well-known author Joseph Bruchac, Pueblo storyteller Eldrena Douma, cartoonist and Smithsonian Institution employee Evan Keeling, and many who have not worked in comics heretofore as well as cartoonists with no previous allegiance to telling Native stories with their art. The total package is accessible, entertaining, educational, inspiring, and a must-have for all collections.—Francisca Goldsmith, Halifax Public Libraries, Nova Scotia
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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Top Customer Reviews
Just look at that bunny on the cover, it just captures the spirit of the book with a sly smile. Yeah! thank you for writing and collaborating on this book.
Twenty-one Native American storytellers are paired with twenty-one artists. Each storyteller tells a tale about a trickster type character. Coyote, raven, rabbit, raccoon, dog, wolf, beaver, and wildcat all have their day. The sheer range of storytellers is impressive, calling upon folks from Hawaii to the Eastern shore, from Alaska to Florida. Sometimes the stories are told traditionally. Sometimes they utilize a lot of modern terms (you don't usually run across the term "crystal cathedral thinking" in a book of folktales these days). The final result is an eclectic collection, where each story plays off of the ones paired before and after it. Though oral in nature, editor Matt Dembicki finds a way to make these tales as fresh and spontaneous on the printed page as when they were told to generations of eager listeners.
I liked the sheer array of kinds of tricksters in this book. In some cases they were villains that had to be outsmarted. Other times they were unrepentant bad boys (never bad girls, alas) who always got their way. Sometimes they were wise and powerful, and other times very small and more sprite than single entity. I also enjoyed seeing similar stories repeat in different places. For example, in three different stories a trickster pretends to be dead in order to lure its prospective meal nice and close. These include "How Wildcat Caught a Turkey" as told by Joseph Stands With Many, "Azban and the Crayfish" by James and Joseph Bruchac, and "Ishjinki and Buzzard" by Jimm Goodtracks. Now these are stories from guys from the Cherokee, Abenaki, and Ioway/Otoe tribes, but the similarities are striking. There are people in this world who spend their entire lives tracking how tales move from one group of people to another. Trickster allows you a quick glimpse into that lifestyle.
I tried this book out with my children's bookgroup and it was a big success. Really, the only problem was that a lot of them weren't familiar with the very concept of tricksters and had a hard time figuring out, what they called, the "point" of certain stories. For example, in the tale "Rabbit and the Tug of War" a sneaky bunny manages to get two buffalo to tug on a single rope against one another, thinking they're tugging against him. It's a silly prank, but my kids were puzzled. "Why did he do that?" It's tough being the first person to explain the concept of tricksters and trickery to ten-year-olds. You just sort of assume they know what you're talking about.
The kids also had distinct opinions on the art. I was a little surprised by it, honestly. First off, I'd never heard of a single one of the artists. None of them have really done graphic novels or comics in the young reader sphere, working instead in the realm of adult comics and Eisner Award winning books. None of the artists, as far as I could tell, were Native American either. Now in his notes From the Editor at the end of the book, Mr. Dembicki does say that the text of individual tales was always changed with the full approval of the storyteller. That said, I had to wonder what their opinions of their accompanying artists were. The animal stories wouldn't have had to worry (mostly) but when you see American Indians in headdresses and the usual shtick, you have to parse whether or not someone might be offended. However, after listening to an interview with Dembicki, I learned that the storytellers were allowed to choose their artists, and that makes a huge difference, so my fears were sort of abated. On the kids' part, they paid far more attention to the types of art being utilized. We all loved the art Jason Copland created of "Raven the Trickster" (looking like nothing so much as Arabel's Raven in a slightly different form). They were disturbed by the art Paul Zdepski made for "Puapualenalena Wizard Dog of Waipi'o Valley" (like me). And they were all equally entranced by the work Pat Lewis did on "Rabbit's Choctaw Tail Tale". That Mr. Lewis doesn't have a children's book out yet is nothing short of bizarre. Clearly this is his medium.
For all this, the book is not without its flaws. For example, on a first reading it's impossible to say which story is attributed to which tribe. After some time you will realize that within the biographies in the back of the book the tribe of each of the storytellers is listed alongside that person's name. All well and good, but unfortunately this gives the book the initial impression that all tales are one and the same. I would have also have liked more information in Dembicki's note at the end of the book about why certain artists were paired with certain stories. Ah well.
Of course, the book wasn't really written with a child audience in mind. Librarians in children's rooms have purchased it for that purpose but you can tell that it was initially meant to be for a more adult crowd. Maybe that's the solution to the folktale gap problem, then. If adults start reading folktales and begin collecting books like Trickster here, then perhaps we'll see a resurgence of interest in the publishing industry. In the meantime, supplement your reading of this book with the child-friendly Trick of the Tale: A Collection of Trickster Tales by John and Caitlin Matthews and the more young adult The Coyote Road edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling. I guarantee your trickster hunger will be well satiated if you happen to do so. You'll probably keep returning to this book, though. There's something new to find within it each time you pick it up.
For ages 9 and up.
The truly impressive part of the book is in the information that follows the stories. That the editor could have gained the trust of people who so often have had to be careful of destructive outside intent is exciting and amazing. This is a wonderful, thoughtful project.
The art: a large range, interesting, fun, and beautifully printed. This is definitely the five-star part of the book.
I wanted to give this book five stars, but one very important thing made me unable to do that: if you look in the indicia, the editor (who is also one of the artists) listed himself as owning the copyright from all the artists and storytellers. Since there are First Nations people among the creators for this book, I don't think we need to go to far into what was done here. I don't know if Fulcrum forced everybody to sign a contract to release their copyright, but this is a wincing moment. And regrettable in such an important book.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
“Trickster: Native American Tales: A Graphic Collection” is a graphic novel anthology of Native American trickster tales collected by editor Matt...Read more