Thomas King's A Coyote Solstice Tale
Illustrated by Gary Clement
Children's book review by Suzanne Edison.
A picture book in rhyme for primary to middle school. Adults will also enjoy it
A Coyote Solstice Tale is a modern day fable about material consumption told with “deadpan humor”—political correctness with lots o’laughs. Trickster Coyote’s eyes are always bugging out of his head whether with alarm, interest or greed. For the winter solstice he has invited his friends, Bear, Beaver, Otter and Moose for some festivities.
But first, a twist on Little Red Riding Hood, a little girl dressed as a red reindeer shows up at his door.
“Good grief, said Coyote quite shaken
For he knew as everyone knows
That people and creatures stopped talking
A couple of eons ago.”
Told in the sing-song of nursery rhymes, though geared for children in primary school and above (and wonderfully readable by adults), Coyote and his friends think they should return the girl to her family. They head off into the winter night, trudging through the snow only to discover that the trees end abruptly. Before them lies the glittering visage of a Super-mall replete with acres of cars.
The animals are curious and eager to explore but of course the girl isn’t. Why else has she come looking in the woods for “friendship and goodwill and peace”?
Despite the little girl’s warning, the animals insist on seeing what this new thing is and they sled downhill into the parking lot. Coyote is entranced. Malls can do that. I often hear covert (and overt) voices saying, buy me, buy me when I step into one.
They are met inside with angry, shoving, grumpy and bleary-eyed shoppers, all of them carrying over-sized boxes. But Coyote is off to load up his shopping cart with a TV, a wrist watch, books (a nod to Proust and a wink to us adults, “four volumes for his friend Moose”). At least these are presents for his friends rather than all for himself.
And when he gets to the check out stand to pay for it, the cashier, in her pointy red, upturned witch glasses shows him the total. When it is obvious he didn’t know how to pay for it we are treated to shades of our recent economic woes. She gleefully holds up a contract for an interest free loan!
By the end of A Coyote Solstice Tale you can probably guess where this is going, and you might be right. Maybe. I love that Thomas King leaves us with Coyote still wondering,
“If goodwill and peace could be purchased
For credit or cash at the mall.”
Read more of Suzanne's book reviews.
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