Books by Craig Kee Strete

Released: July 1, 2004

Any child who has faced a scary new situation will understand why Crowboy, presumably a Native American boy from the Southwest, adopts a rattlesnake persona on the first day of school. If he's a mean old rattlesnake, who would hurt him? So transformed, he slithers onto the bus and coils up under the desk in class: "But the teacher said, ‘Don't worry, Crowboy. You'll make friends.' " He's skeptical, but there is one girl who doesn't seem to be put off by the whole "snake thing." In fact, she wants to slither right along with him! Strete's story illustrates how completely the boy withdraws into his fantasy self, so it's perfect that Cravath's stylized, wonderfully vivacious, desert-hued, chalky illustrations depict Crowboy as an actual, albeit endearingly anthropomorphized, rattlesnake. Children will giggle as the boy-snake licks the bus window and refuses to eat hot dogs—and will cheer to see that by the end, Crowboy retracts his snaky fangs, literally and figuratively. An original, funny, non-preachy spin on the "bullies just want a friend" theme. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 1999

Strete pens an ode to tolerance that is none too subtle, but the stunning artwork from Johnson and Fancher should keep viewers involved. The story is a parable couched as a Native American tale, in which a boy (identified by Strete as lost and without a name, although why this is important is never made clear) comes across a rattlesnake and a scorpion, both of whom wonder why the boy doesn't kill them: "Why should I do that? Snakes belong in this world just like me." Scorpions, too, the boy chirps. The venomous critters adopt the boy as a brother and when he gets trapped by the Old Foot Eater, a monster who lives in a medicine basket on top of a tree, catching his quarry with a sticky rope, the rattlesnake and scorpion come to his rescue and seal the monster's doom. Good deeds fly thick and fast here, but without context. The illustrations draw their hues from the American southwest, while the paint is scratched to convey a sense of age and animation, and the monster is a ghoulish, block-headed, spine-chilling delight. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 1996

A tongue-in-cheek, witty text with pictures that illustrate more than amplify how one ``great Indian chief and his great Indian wife'' triumph over a tricky government relocation policy. The government man tells a skins-clad native couple to leave their lands and move into a wooden house that stands near the wooden barn; the only catch is that they must raise sheep, pigs, and cows, and they haven't the funds to buy these animals. Still, they're gamely cooperative, and soon the wife (now in a white apron) waves her husband (now in bib overalls) off on a canoe trip down the great river to find livestock. He acquires a moose, a beaver, and a bear, in a hilarious, three-animals-in-a-canoe sequence. A week later, the animals have collected enough friends to join them on the farm so that when the government man comes to check compliance (bringing a thick stack of papers and several other officials), he is soon dispersed, leaving a paper trail behind him. ``Bought the farm'' is, of course, a gallows-humor euphemism for death, but the death of a former way of life turns out happily indeed, in a perfect read-aloud book. (Picture book. 5+) Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 21, 1995

Jimmy Whitefeather's father is dead, and he and his mother are moving from the pueblo to his grandfather's house in the city. Jimmy hates the city, and does not understand why they had to leave, and his angry, heartbroken mother is reluctant to tell him. The reason is an added burden: She promised his father that Jimmy would get an education in the outside world, so that he could return to help his people. As his mother struggles to get and keep a menial job, the only one who helps Jimmy through all of the unhappy changes is his grandfather, who seems to be lost in dreams of the past. This philosophical and somewhat mystical book is imbued with the sadness and anger of a displaced people. Many children will find Jimmy's progress toward understanding ponderous. Those thoughtful readers who appreciate Jimmy's dilemma and unique perspective will be rewarded and enlightenedthe sense of lives out of place and feelings of disconnectedness are soberingly authentic. (Fiction. 8-12) Read full book review >