Kirkus Reviews QR Code
A PORTRAIT OF SPOTTED DEER'S GRANDFATHER by Amy Littlesugar

A PORTRAIT OF SPOTTED DEER'S GRANDFATHER

By Amy Littlesugar (Author) , Marlowe deChristopher (Illustrator)

Age Range: 7 - 11

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-8075-6622-5
Publisher: Whitman

 Littlesugar (Marie in Fourth Position, 1996, etc.) explains in a foreword how George Catlin's 19th-century paintings were innovative for recording Native American lives before the invasion of white culture, but not that his work was a forerunner to a new stereotype: the noble savage. Her picture book offers a sympathetic portrayal of how Catlin persuaded a warrior, Moose Horn, to pose for him. Spotted Deer tries to convince his grandfather to pose for the man called Medicine Painter, but Moose Horn fears that if he gives away his face, he may also lose his spirit. Gradually, as the old warrior observes Catlin painting, and subsequently has a vision, he realizes that the artist's ability to record a person's essence on canvas is of value, that Catlin might ``keep us from blowing away forever.'' The book ends, fittingly, with a portrait of the warrior--by deChristopher. His illustrations blend in well with the one Catlin reproduction included, emulating the painter's style without distorting or overshadowing it. What's missing is a better understanding of Moose Horn's fear (what it is to ``give away your face'') and any fulfillment of Littlesugar's hint that Catlin was ``less than perfect'' as an artist and as a man. Without this information, the book is something of a whitewash- -Catlin as the white hero who answers for the devastation brought upon Native American life. (Picture book. 7-11)