THE EAGLE'S GIFT by Rafe Martin


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Martin (Mysterious Tales of Japan, also illustrated by Kiuchi, 1996, etc.) went to an out-of-print collection gathered by Arctic explorer Knud Rasmussen for the source of this wordy retelling of an Alaskan tale about the spread of the gift of joy. In the long-ago Alaskan wilderness, a man wearing a cape of eagle feathers appears with a message for Marten, who is uncomprehending: ""What is sing? What is dance? What is stow and delight? What is joy?"" He goes with the eagle-man to a house atop a mountain, where an old mother instructs him to build a feast hall, learn to dance, and tell stories to the beat of a drum. ""Put your memories and thoughts into words that can move to the beat of your drum. This is the path of joy."" Marten accomplishes his three tasks effortlessly, without challenge or suspense. An unexplained premise, sketchy details regarding the fate of Marten's brothers, confusing animal transformations, and a didactic author's note strain this tale; the flat, formal telling does not convey a sense of the joy it preaches. Kiuchi's richly textured spreads compensate somewhat for the emotion missing in the story, lifting it up to depict laughter, dancing, and feathers flying to the beat of the drum.

Pub Date: Sept. 22nd, 1997
Page count: 32pp
Publisher: Putnam