L12_tomj's Reviews > A Coyote Solstice Tale

A Coyote Solstice Tale by Thomas King
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Jan 25, 2012

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L12_tomj Thomas King's a Coyote Solstice Tale is a very cute story taking a traditional Christian holiday, Christmas, and giving it a uniquely American Indian vantage point. Coyote, our main protagonist, is having a holiday feast, and he invites Beaver and Bear to share. To his suprise, when a knock is heard at the door instead of being greeted by his friends, Coyotes instead is introced to a young girl dressed like Rudolph the reindeer complete with sticks in her hair, green teddy bear, and red rubber nose. Despite his better instincts about talking with humans, Coyote invites the girl over to share his food, and she quickly falls asleep on Coyote's chair wrapped in a fleece. Coyote's animal friends finally make their way to his home in the forest, and together they search for the girls footprints in hopes of retracing her steps to their origins.

What Coyote, Bear, Moose, Otter, and the young girl find instead is the Forest View Mall. They all quickly get caught in the jingling consumer noise, frustration, and commercial trappings of buying gifts that is the Christmas season. Coyote goes on a rampage of shopping and buys something for all his friends. The bill for his purchases reaches over the counter and to the floor! Coyote has been changed by all these consumer experiences, but you have to wonder if it is for the better. He rocks in his easy rocker and equates peace and goodwill with purchasing a bike and a tv. His face looks tired and vacant. the spirit of the Christian holiday season has been replaced by rampant consumerism.

King's story is written in an ABAB rhyming pattern which keeps the young readers entranced as surely Coyote is at the end by rhythmic pursuit of buying stuff! The rhyming pattern is broken up every other page, so the author thankfully spares his readers a tiresome rhyming pattern. What brings this funny adventure between friends to life is how Gary Clement's illustrations tie into the story and add to the cute and comedic interaction of Coyote and friends. Clements clean and flat lines look very similiar and he favors the use of simple rather than muted colors and minimal use of shading appears very much like how a child would envision and draw them.

Although I enjoyed the story and theme about how Christmas shopping and overt consumerism dilutes the real meaning of this story, and despite the girl returning to her home, and Coyote finally enjoying his feast with his friends at his home, the idea that even thses American Indian characters could be converted into unthinking consumers, although funny, left me empty. King likely wanted to give his young readers this criticism of how this holiday's true meaning is lost even to new American Indian initiates by consumerism, but still it is a bit anticlimatic and deflating for the reader.

King's vocabulary, font size, and themes seem suitable for 2nd and 3rd graders. Teachers who use the book should likely learn more about how Coyote, Bear, Otter, and Moose are representative of certain Native American Indian traits or personalities. How these characters are supposed to interact with humans and how they actually engage with the girl and others at the mall would likely resonate more with American audiences more if students knew the symbolic nature of these American Indian characters. Other related texts that might help in teachers understanding Native American cultures would be "Between the Deep Blue Sea and Me" by Luriline Wailana McGregor, "The Winter Solstice by Ellen Jackson, and "A Solstice Tree for Jenny" by Karen Shragg.


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