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Volume VIII Number 12 . . . . February 15, 2002
A long-standing interest in seeing the universal story of Noah's Ark set in the New World prompted Maria Elena Maggi to retell the Karina legend she has entitled The Great Canoe: A Karina Legend. In an afterward, the author notes that the Karina are descendants of a great indigenous nation which occupied eastern Venezuela before the coming of the Spaniards. For the structure of her text, the author has drawn on two stories found in Fray Cesareo de Armellada's book, Indigenous Venezuelan Literatures. Both she and illustrator Gloria Calderon did extensive research to unearth a Karina version of the Old Testament story. In familiarizing themselves with the flora and fauna of the region, the two spent time living with members of a well-known Karina family, listening to their music and their stories.
Paintings by noted Columbian illustrator Gloria Calderone depict the landscape and people of the ancient Karina civilization with warmth and historical accuracy. Her style is simple yet sweeping. Double spread illustrations of storm and flood depict the fearful drama of the deluge. Young children will enjoy examining and trying to identify the different species of birds and animals that inhabit this part of the world.
In an interesting reversal of the usual process, the author notes that she re-wrote her story once the illustrations were complete. To complement Calderone's simple yet powerful illustrations, she shortened her text as much as possible. Many full paintings are accompanied with only one or two easy-to-read sentences. In her version of the story, Maggi has kept the name of the powerful Karina god, Kaputano, and also his punishment of non-believers. (They perish in the flood). The author has not altered this part of her re-telling since anthropologists consider it an essential element in Karina religion. Maggi's afterword, giving details of Karina history and culture, as well as her literary and anthropological research, will be of interest to the adult reader and highly useful to teachers reading this story aloud or assigning it as part of a unit on folk literature.
Elementary school librarians will want to add The Great Canoe: A Karina Legend to their collections of folk tales from indigenous cultures. A sharing of this tale with young children will almost certainly elicit questions and comments ranging from "Is this a true story?" to "I know a story just like this..."
Valerie Nielsen is a retired teacher-librarian who lives in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.