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SACRED FIRE by Nancy Wood


by Nancy Wood & illustrated by Frank Howell

Age Range: 9 - 11

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-385-32515-0
Publisher: Doubleday

In another collaboration with Howell, Wood (Dancing Moons, 1995, etc.) uses poetry and prose to tell of the Pueblo people of the Southwest, a story at once melancholy and wonderfully dense with cultural landscapes. The hardship suffered by the Pueblos after the Spanish occupation brings a concurrent sense of survivance, and of holding tight to the cosmology, rituals, and pacing of their everyday lives. The story is told by the Old Man, guardian of the Sacred Fire, one of the four great elements and symbolic of longevity, hope, wisdom, and purification. While the Sacred Flame is central to the book, Wood ranges far and wide, into Sun Dances and corn ceremonies, community and tradition. The poems can be incantatory; some are simple explication (“What came with us in the Beginning Time?/Turtle Spirit./What comforted us in the Middle Way?/Buffalo Spirit”), while others are more elusive (“We are afraid to remember obsidian,/because it reminds us of pain”). Salted between poems are pieces through which Old Man fills the gaps, sketches in the memories, locates what abides: spirit, humility, grace, generosity. Howell’s artwork is arresting, with an emotional lucidity that conveys powerful people, facing adversity without losing their way. (Poetry. 9-11)