DOCTOR COYOTE: A Native American Aesop's Fables by John--Adapt. & Illus. Bierhorst
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DOCTOR COYOTE: A Native American Aesop's Fables

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It is unusual for this distinguished editor, who has brought us many fine tales and myths from Amerindian culture, to do a picture book. This is not a book for young children, but should be seriously considered for middle-school and public libraries. The old Greek fables were brought in Spanish translation to Mexico, where they were rewritten by a 16th-century Aztec scribe, who cast Coyote, the traditional Native American trickster, in the role taken by the European Fox. Bierhorst has now translated 20 less familiar tales into English. It is fascinating to see how a culture's point of view affects the morals of a fable; many of the new ones surprise our ears. For example, where we expect to be warned to ""look before you leap,"" we are told that ""The truth hits hardest when it is too late to complain."" Watson's full-color illustrations work well, after the original surprise of their almost cartoon-like style; their contemporary style fits the tales well (Coyote even has an old truck for hunting trips) and emphasizes the tales' universality. Watson's firsthand research shows in the strong feeling for the setting and costume of the Southwest, combining nicely with a dry wit that does not take itself too seriously. Doctor Coyote should make friends for himself, and for Aesop, with this imaginatively put-together book.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1987
Page count: 48pp
Publisher: Macmillan