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Picture Book Review Gerald McDermott-Raven-A Trickster Tale from the Northwest
The Raven is perhaps the first major picture book to introduce children to Northwest native art on a wide scale thanks in part to its Caldecott Honor. The book utilizes fuzzy pictures to help it seem as though the world where blended together in a story as old as time. For the myth on which this book was based while not a creation legend is a story of how the sun came to be in the sky.
The Character of Raven however stands, he has been created in replica of the design art of the Nothwest Natives. Done in a flat style with the stark symbols of red and green of the arts patterns throughout his body Raven pushes out of the picture book becoming prominant through stylistic seperation.
The picture book begins with a very serios problem for the world, there is no light for the sun has not yet taken its place in the sky, and so Raven flies forth to find some form of light. The light is discovered in two double spread pictures which move Raven farther and father away from the viewer. This pushes our focus to the new found light even as it lets us know that Raven is leaving the world he knows and is preparing to enter a new one.
As he observes this new world one of its inhabitants a girl comes out to get a drink of world. The house which holds the light is blocked by sinister looking totem poles. The Sinister nature of these objects helps explain Ravens need for subterfuge to get into the house. To do enter the house he transforms into a pine needle that the girl drinks, and grows inside her to appear to be born as a human child.
The girl and the totem poles are done in the same artistic style as Raven, as is his false grandfather, though unlike Raven their colors like the background are muted, letting us know that these things are not truely spiritual not like Raven. Rather they are the false ones the ones who are keeping the sunlight fromt he rest of the world.
Those who serve the Sky Chief (Ravens Grandfather) are however done in the style of dolls for they are nothing more then servents. Their cloths are beaded with none of the graphics of the native art.
The box holding the sun however is very graphic. This picture allows it not only to hold focus, and to connect it to Raven, but allows us to see its actual spiritual nature, it does not belong in this false world, but in the world of Raven.
And so Raven is justified in his trickery to obtain the sun inside the box and to release it into the sky.
Raven is a very moody picture book, something that is rare among picture books, making it beautiful, as the story within it.