On Our Shelves Now
Past and present meet in a hymn to the Lakota Circle of Life. Contemporary Lakota kids board a school bus at daybreak while "Father Sun gives warmth to Mother Earth. / Meadowlark sings her song as swallows fly above." The day, with its crickets and dragonflies, whispering winds and rainbows, unfolds and circles toward evening and the rising of Sister Moon. Lines of text arc across scenic renderings of earth and sky in double-page spreads filled with figures based on ledger-books drawings and geometric patterns adapted from bead- and quillwork. Nelson, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, skillfully melds modern and traditional images of people in lush acrylics painted on textured paper. Interspersing the story are songs in the Lakota language, placed alongside English translations. These lovely bits of verse ("At dawn / may I roam / against the winds / may I roam") accompanied by colorful depictions of the ancestors singing and drumming in a circle enhance the connection between generations. The author spells out the philosophy of the Circle of Life in an introduction that is both a celebration of the Lakota Way for those attuned to it and an explanation for those outside of this tradition. A serene, joyous appreciation of our place in the natural world.
"K-Gr 5--Portraying the precepts of Lakota philosophy with a harmonious interplay of glorious images and crisp poetry, Nelson expresses his vision of how gratitude for nature's bounty and appreciation of ""Wakan Tanka"," or the Great Mystery, enhances human life. His introduction effectively explains the Circle of Life, giving many examples of the literal and metaphorical circles that seem to inspire his illustrations, which depict circular dewdrops, drums, and celestial bodies--even the words themselves arc across some pages. However, other elements are a bit harder to understand, and a lack of clear transitions makes readers work to find connections among Nelson's ideas. The simplicity of the main text resolves any lingering confusion; the author intersperses ancestral songs that celebrate dawn, sun, and moon with his own free verse in praise of all the gifts nature shares with humans over the course of a day. The real star of the book, though, is the artistry of Nelson's breathtaking paintings. His appreciation of nature is apparent in the dynamic vistas that sweep across each spread; sky and earth are full of movement and pattern, and washes of color vary in mood and shade to portray muted sandy deserts, vibrant tropical blooms, and deep velvety midnights. The author concludes with a note that describes his inspirations and techniques and acknowledges the people who influenced his understanding of the Lakota Way.--"Kate Hewitt, Far Brook School, Short Hills, NJ