“'There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly; 'coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrench

'O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstacies: 'This is too much!'”
-- from
The Wind in the Willows

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Trickster: Native American Tales, a Graphic Collection

Edited by Matt Dembicki
Available now  • Fulcrum Publishing  • Ages 10 and up
Featuring more than 20 tales by Native American storytellers illustrated by various artists, this graphic collection is the first of its kind.
Story: From the co-founder of the DC Conspiracy,this extraordinary graphic collection has received starred reviews from School Library Journal, Kirkus and Booklist, and was featured in a segment on NPR's Weekend Edition. It's "a graphic novel anthology collecting tales of North America's first adventure heroes -- trickster figures like Coyote, Raven, and other "animal humans," who both transformed the world around them, and were often transformed by it (in spite of themselves).... The book pairs up Native American storytellers with comics artists, and provides a great batch of reading that is, well, both thrilling and yes, transformative. As you'd demand from any encounter with a trickster!"(Guys Lit Wire)

Story behind the story:  I've been reading and listening to some really interesting interviews about graphic novels and why this collection. Dembicki told NPR that "he collected tales from Native American storytellers and matched them with illustrators. It was an intense project. 'It's rather easy to put together a comics anthology if you're working with people who are familiar with comics,' he says. But the storytellers were skeptical. 'It wasn't easy convincing everybody,' Dembicki says. 'Some people really couldn't see it being done this way. Other people had some cultural issues. They were very adamant — these were mostly oral stories; they were told orally, and they should be told orally.' Some storytellers went to their tribe and got approval. 'With all the competing media for people's attention, I think they felt they were losing a hold of their storytelling tradition, and they wanted to preserve some of these stories in a different format. 'It wasn't the ideal format for them, but they wanted to make sure that it was there to preserve for their own children, and for everyone else as well.'"  Listen to the entire interview at NPR's Weekend Edition or read more about the making of the collection at Washington City Paper, and Guys Lit Wire.

PS: Last night, I mentioned on Twitter that I'd be writing about this book and I got the following response from @moonb2 (Barbara Moon, Youth Services Library Consultant, Suffolk County Library System, NY):  "Trickster has been earning high marks! Nominated YALSA Great Graphic Novel. Author @ ALA. I LOVE this book Glad U R featuring."  And, she added in another tweet: "Voice of each Nat Am storytellr effectively paired with unique art equals a stellar showcase of Nat Amer culture!"  I agree.  Can't wait to hear if you do, too...

★"Realistic, impressionistic, painterly, and cartoon styles of art are employed to echo and announce the tone of each tale and telling style, making this a rich visual treasure as well as cultural trove. Contributors include well-known author Joseph Bruchac, Pueblo storyteller Eldrena Douma, cartoonist and Smithsonian Institution employee Evan Keeling, and many who have not worked in comics heretofore as well as cartoonists with no previous allegiance to telling Native stories with their art. The total package is accessible, entertaining, educational, inspiring, and a must-have for all collections." -- School Library Journal, starred review

★"This graphic-format collection of Native American tales featuring an old folk favorite—the trickster—hits an impressive trifecta of achievements. First, it’s a wildly successful platform for indie-comic creators and an excellent showcase for their distinctive styles. From David Smith and Jerry Carr’s heroic, animation-inspired “Trickster and the Great Chief” to the Looney Toons zaniness of “Rabbit’s Chocktaw Tail Tale,” by Tim Tingle and Pat Lewis, there’s a bit of visual panache here for every taste. Second, this is one of the very infrequent graphic novels to focus on Native American themes and events, a surprising absence that this book—along with Shannon and Dean Hale’s Calamity Jack (2010)—remedies with respect and imagination. Lastly, as Native American folklore is so directly tied to the culture’s spirituality, this proves the rare graphic novel that handles such issues without specifically attaching them to standard religious practices. With stories that vary in emotional tone, matching the ever-shifting appearance and character of the trickster himself and the lessons he teaches and learns, this collection is an ideal choice for dipping into over and over. A dandy read for those interested in history, folklore, adventure, humor, or the arts, and a unique contribution to the form". -- Booklist, starred review
FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent; please check back on the "comments" link to read what your colleagues have to say. 


juli said...

Ouch-That was tricky!!! Didn't even get a chance to trick the tricksters. Would have loved to review this book, maybe next time.

loonyhiker said...

I would definitely give this book a 5 out of 5. I love the whole book! First of all I love graphic novels and I love Native American Tales so to find a book that combines them both was wonderful! The illustrations were magnificent and would really appeal to readers of all ages. Of course the stories were entertaining but also could be used as a springboard for classroom lessons. This book could be used to teach reading, storytelling, art, social skills, science, and many other topics. I think this book would be a great addition to any school or classroom library. In fact, I can’t wait to take this book camping this weekend to share it with family and friends.

Pat Hensley
Greenville, SC

EShay said...

I was thoroughly enchanted by this book. I loved the different authors' drawings for the different tales. I can really see a student of art getting into that. I am always on the lookout for various tales and this one had many tales I was unfamiliar with. This book could be used in conjunction with the pillars of character. Also, the square shape of the book was perfect and the weight of the paper made this book feel really substantial and perfect for rereading.

There was only one thing I noticed. I do not generally go looking for typos, but I found a handful in this book. I didn't see that it was an ARC so I am hoping it will go through another editing process. Especially with a graphic novel, there needs to be perfect spellings.

I give it a 4.5

Anonymous said...

Rating: 4

This is a beautiful collection of Trickster tales told through various graphic styles. Each tale is unique and there will be something to suit every taste. (Some were too cartoon-y for my liking, but some people may enjoy them).

I loved how brief, yet thorough the tales were. And I would recommend this to any graphic novel fan. Or to kids or teens learning about Trickster tales.

Heather Hart
Children's Librarian

Angela said...

I could not be happier about having this book in my collection for a number of reasons. I love the graphic novel genre and these stories fit in with that style perfectly. The stories themselves are so well written with just the right word choice and voice to convey the ideas. The lessons in each story will provide students with a lot to think and talk about as they also learn about Native American culture and the importance and uses of story telling. The multiple stories on the one theme of the "trickster" is a great idea and provides opportunities for comparing and contrasting. The artwork is so unique in each story and will be another great conversation piece. This book has exceeded my expectations and I give it a 5 out of 5, hands down!

D.A. Tyo said...

I have just finished reading Trickster: Native American Tales: A Graphic Collection by Matt Dembicki. What a fantastic collection of Native American trickster tales by various storytellers and illustrators.

I know this book will be appealing to a wide range of readers because it took FOUR DAYS to get my hands on this one! Thanks to The Picnic Basket, this gem came in the mail only to be grabbed by my eleven year-old daughter. She started reading it immediately, being the lover of graphic novels she is. I then saw this book in my husband's hands. He is drawn to anything Native American. When I finally asked for my chance to read through this book, I was intrigued.

Each Native American tale is told by a different storyteller. Each tale is illustrated by a different artist. Such an interesting collection of tales and styles of artwork! For a younger reader, this format will work well as they won't get 'stuck' in a story or a form of artwork that they do not enjoy.

My favorite tales were "Coyote and the Pebbles", "Azban and the Crayfish", "Rabbit and the Tug of War", and "Giddy Up, Wolfie".

This collection earns a 5 out of 5 rating.

Review posted at www.chocolateair.blogspot.com

D.A. Tyo
6th Grade LA Teacher

Anonymous said...

A 5 for this book. Graphic novels are not my favorites but they are something my students love. I like that they have taken actual stories from Native American Storytellers and matched them with artists - the artwork variations were really amazing. I love this novel and had to pry it out of the hands of my 16 year old daughter and my husband they were both clamoring for it immediately. I can't wait to introduce it in my classroom this fall!

Heather Hill said...

"Trickster" is a true treasure. Weaving traditional Native American tales with the talents of many graphic artists made each story a visual feast for the eyes. This will be a great book to hook in my reluctant readers and I also think art teachers wanting to showcase many different kinds of graphic art could find this book very valuable and worth the investment.

Additionally, I was so excited to read the backgrounds of the writers and artists who reside all over the US.

This book is a five out of 5.

Heather Hill, Reading Specialist
Enterprise Elementary
Woodbridge, VA

Susan E said...

I am a K-4 school librarian in NJ and I would give this book a 2: " Recommended under Certain Reading Situations This book is not as essential as the picnic tableware but it may provide picnic entertainment under the right conditions."

I jumped at the chance to read and review this book because it filled two niches that my kids love: 1) trickster tales (which we study in our library curriculum) and 2) graphic novels.

Unfortunately, many of the stories are so text-heavy and densely worded that I, as an adult reader, had trouble focusing enough to follow the stories. Some of the fonts are also very difficult to read, especially for early readers. And because each story or "chapter" is told in a completely different verbal or artistic style, the authors need to realize that they need to 'hook' the reader more quickly.

A note from the editor, Matt Dembicki, states that the "point wasn't to westernize the stories for general consumption, but rather to provide an opportunity to experience authentic Native American stories....in terms of editing, text was changed only when panel space was an issue and only with the approval of the storyteller."

Because of this lack of editing, some of the stories suffer from misspellings and typos.

Some of the tales are standouts of higher quality and I could see using them individually in my elementary library:

-Azban and the Crayfish
- Trickster and the Great Chief
- Coyote and the Pebbles

But I will not be keeping my copy for my K-4 library, I'll be sending it up to the middle school to see if they can use it.

CPA Mom said...