Twelve folk tales from various Amazonian cultures are retold, but their audience is unclear.
A full-bleed illustration opens each myth, with greens, browns, oranges and golds predominating. The short myths and pourquoi tales feel fragmentary, although the longer stories are just as confusing. Perhaps the convoluted publishing history is to blame. Popov, the Russian illustrator, created the intricately dreamlike gouache and India ink paintings for an academic collection of Brazilian tales. (Humans wear few clothes, as is natural in this region.) Groundwood and a Brazilian publisher wanted to reuse the illustrations and invited Munduruku to present selected tales in a voice that is unquestionably authentic but will probably feel unfamiliar to North American readers, particularly young readers accustomed to European-American storytelling voices. Eight different groups are represented, but the book doesn’t provide information about the different cultures; strong relationships among the region’s flora and fauna and its indigenous groups are revealed. There is no map, but there is an excellent glossary. Readers hoping for drawings of the many local animals and plants mentioned will be disappointed.
As the reteller states in his preface, “Myths allow us to recognize our proper role in the web of life,” but this anthology will require an intermediary who can creatively make the connections between the text and its readers. (Folk tales. 9-12)