This pourquoi tale from British Columbia’s Tahltan nation is greatly enhanced by vibrant, imaginative woodblock prints, one for every page of text.
Co-author and illustrator Vickers notes that this was a “short little story” when he first encountered it, but over the years, he learned more. Perhaps this is why some of the many interesting bits of Cloudwalker’s story do not quite coalesce. For example, early in the tale, there is a full paragraph about the “one thing Cloudwalker could not do.” The detailed description of his yearning for a life partner appears to be a plot point but is never again mentioned. The strength of the text lies in its ability to weave into this legend about the creation of three rivers facts about the natural resources of the region and the traditions of its native people. It is unfortunate that there is no appendix or glossary; some elements are explained, but readers outside the culture will likely not figure out the meaning of “potlatch” from this story’s context. And how should those readers pronounce “Ksien” and “Gitxsan” and “guloonich”? The artwork, in contrast, elegantly combines spiritual and physical worlds, partly by the use of pale, skeletal imagery over solid blocks of landscape and living figures.
Though the text makes few compromises to readers outside of its culture, the illustrations shine brightly for all. (Picture book/folk tale. 6-12)