Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Trickster: Native American Tales: A Graphic Collection edited by Matt Dembicki

Sneaky, mischievous animals characterize the twenty-one Native American trickster tales in this compact collection. While this book will probably not appeal to students who are looking for graphic novels in general, it is certainly valuable as a teaching tool. Editor and artist Dembicki put together teams of storytellers and artists, a process he explains in a note to readers, and Native American storytellers make the tales authentic. This is a good thing, but it also means the writing may seem stilted, abrupt, and strange to students unfamiliar with the vernacular. Which brings me back to mentioning the value of this resource for teaching units on fables, folktales and mythology. Some of my favorites are the stories that explain the history of things, like how the rabbit’s tail came to look the way it does now in “Rabbit’s Choctaw Tail Tale,” and the story behind the alligator’s scales in “How the Alligator Got His Brown, Scaly Skin.” In these stories, tricksters get their comeuppance, but in others, tricksters are the victors. My favorite of the latter type is “Giddy Up, Wolfie,” an outrageous story about a rabbit who is in love with a wolf and he tricks her into leaving her wolf boyfriend for him. The illustrations throughout the collection are fantastic -- beautiful, quirky and varied, making this a useful resource for teaching art as well as ELA.

Dembicki, Matt, ed. Trickster: Native American Tales: A Graphic Collection. Golden, CO: Fulcrum Books, 2010.

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