In this debut children’s picture book from siblings Keith (Madchild Running, 1999) and Chenoa Egawa, a young Native American girl sets out on a journey to discover the heart of the world.
Young Tani learns her tribe’s traditional stories while living with her grandmother in a Pacific Northwest Native American village. Her grandmother dies shortly after logging trucks arrive in their community, and Tani goes to live with other relatives. But she soon leaves to complete a mission her grandmother assigned to her: to walk to the coast and discover the heart of the world. Several talking animals help her along the way, and she’s guided by the mystical presence of the Stick Indian, a forest creature who often appeared in her grandmother’s stories. The authors enhance the narrative with eye-catching illustrations, some in black charcoal and some in full color, that give readers a clear idea of each character. Tani wears jeans and her cousin, Droopy Drawers, wears a disposable diaper, establishing the book’s present-day setting, but the text has a largely timeless feel, much like the grandmother’s legends. The book contains more text than the average picture book, but it’s likely to appeal to picture-book readers ready for a more challenging read. The biographical information identifies the authors as Native American, specifically of Lummi and S’Klallam ancestry; although Tani’s tribe is never specified, it’s clearly part of the same Pacific Northwest culture as the authors’, which adds authenticity and credibility to their portrayal. Although the lesson Tani learns about the heart of the world is a well-used theme in children’s literature, the authors’ unique voice makes the book a worthwhile addition to any child’s bookshelf.
Vibrant illustrations and a rare perspective bring life to this questing tale.