CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 40 . . . . June 23, 2017
In the age-old tradition of trickster tales, Coyote is both the cause of mischief and its victim in these two humorous stories aimed at children aged 6-9. The stories, originally issued as individual picture-books, are re-issued here in a chapter book edition for beginner readers.
"Coyote Sings to the Moon" is set in a time when animals and humans spoke to each other. Coyote attempts to participate in the nightly chorus to the moon with Old Woman and the animals. When derisive comments are made about his voice, he is hurt and lashes out by insulting the moon who takes offense and dives into a pond. With everybody blundering about in the pitch dark, Old Woman puzzles how to get Moon back in place. She persuades Coyote to sing on a raft on the pond so the unbearable noise will force Moon to return to her proper place in the heavens. Coyote still sings to the moon every night to keep her there.
In "Coyote's New Suit", Raven mischievously creates trouble by criticizing Coyote's fine suit. In doing so, she eggs him on to steal the suits of bear, porcupine and other animals. Coyote wears them for a while, then hangs them in his wardrobe and forgets them. Meantime the naked animals are incited by Raven to cover themselves with human clothes from their washing lines. In a final twist of mischief, Raven promotes a yard sale of Coyote's stolen suits at which the animals appear ridiculous dressed in human clothes and the humans equally so in their underwear. As the humans leave, they indicate they will no longer to talk to the animals.
These traditional trickster stories have a modern twist with their use of current dialect and present-day references. Coyote predictably fulfills his role by breaking the rules, boasting and by flouting convention. In doing so, he not only makes readers laugh but provides understanding about appropriate behaviours. Both stories have a delicious, off-beat humour full of witty dialogue that highlights Coyote's bravado and silliness, Old Woman's wisdom and the mischievousness of Raven.
The text of Coyote Tales is interspersed with entertaining, detailed black and white cartoon illustrations which capture the essential nature of each character. These enhance the text and reflect the comical aspects of the narrative. The stories make great read-alouds either in a group or one on one. The dead-pan, tongue in cheek humour and the silly antics will have children and adults chuckling out loud.
Aileen Wortley is a retired Children's Librarian living in Toronto, ON.
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