Lopez (Arctic Dreams, 1986, etc.) adopts a Native American accent for this short (64-page), solemn coming, of-age tale set in ""myth time,"" when animals and humans spoke the same tongue. Two Indian lads, Crow and Weasel, decide to travel ""farther north than anyone had ever gone, farther north than their people's stories went."" Practical Weasel handles the hunting, while mystical Crow wonders about the nature of things. On their northward trek the two companions ford a dangerous stream, meet a mouse on a vision quest, penetrate the Arctic tundra with its aura of ""deep emptiness,"" and dwell for a time with the Inuit. The return voyage brings encounters with Badger, who teaches the youths to tell a story well, and with Grizzly Bear, who saves them from starvation. Lopez erects this swift-moving tale upon Nati American motifs--such as prayers to the ""Above Ones,"" respect for the land, the importance of courage. Often he hammers home these values by lacing his characters' speech with pious maxims (""It is your relationship to what is beautiful, not the beautiful thing by itself, that carries you,"" etc.), producing what amounts to a moral handbook in Indian garb. The full-color illustrations by Tom Pohrt exactly fit the text: lovely, finely detailed, a bit on the stiff side. The decision to draw the main characters (who are humans in the text) as animals enhances the otherworldliness of the tale, accentuating the theme of ""the wonder and the strangeness"" of life. North Point is marketing this as an ""illustrated parable"" for all ages, but it's more like an Aesop's fable dipped in Native America dyes. Given the teen-age heroes, the adventure plot, and the moral instruction, this seems geared to young adults.