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GHOST HANDS by T.A. Barron


by T.A. Barron & illustrated by William Low

Age Range: 4 - 8

Pub Date: July 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-399-25083-5
Publisher: Philomel

The ubiquity of the handprint in cave art around the world, and Patagonia in particular, begs unresolved questions about the image’s meaning; Barron’s invented back story posits that healers, warriors and others who contributed to the common good may have been thus memorialized.

Adding to the intrigue in Argentina’s Cueva de las Manos is the appearance of a footprint. Combining suspense with coincidence to imagine what prompted this singularity, Barron offers this tale narrated by a son of the Tehuelche tribe. When Auki begs to go hunting, his father admonishes him to wait: “To hunt you must be strong. And brave—brave enough to face the puma. For the puma, too, is a hunter….” The child sets out alone. Digitally rendered compositions teem with texture and depth. Light and shadow crisscross the cliffs, and loose strokes animate the players. In a dramatic double-page spread, the beast appears, fangs bared, facing the reader and the boy. While fleeing, the protagonist wounds his foot, stumbling upon the secret cave “visited only by elders…and…ghosts.” A climactic scene pitting the savage animal against the aged cave painter portrays Auki’s foot as a weapon—one worthy of record.

As in Barron and Low’s previous collaboration, The Day the Stones Walked (2007), tightly connected visuals and text provoke curiosity and awe about a phenomenon at once mysterious and accessible. (author’s note) (Picture book. 4-8)