Not rigidly cumulative but with echoes of “The House That Jack Built,” a reverent, measured portrait of a Navajo family in a traditional dwelling.
Readers hoping for more details about how a hogan is constructed beyond being repeatedly told that Great-Grandfather Jack built it “with his hands / out of earth, water, and trees” will have only Yazzie’s gloomy, indistinct views of a windowless log structure in a desolate setting to go on. Following a retrospective view of a glum-looking Jack posing with an axe, each living member of the young narrator’s family comes into view (there are no glimpses of the hogan’s interior). There’s grandmother, sprinkling corn pollen in the dawn, sister, lacing up for a morning run, and baby brother, tied tightly into a cradleboard. Against a final group view, the author concludes: “Here is my family / walking in beauty. / Here in our home, / our Navajo hogan, / that long, long ago, / Great-Grandfather Jack / built with his hands….” The paintings look to be oil pastels on a textured surface, and they are dominated by orange-y earth tones and deep blue skies. The landscape orientation of the book works well to emphasize the wide-open spaces, but the monumental figures within seem ill-served by the compression into a book format and the close viewing that entails.
Flood’s closing tribute to the hogan’s “beautiful structure” and central role in Navajo life is moving but not reflected in the ponderous, even joyless art. (Picture book. 6-8)