This lovely book, by Maria Williams with illustrations by Felix Vigil, is a retelling of an historical legend common to native tribes of the Northwest Coast. Raven, “both a compassionate creator and a mischief-maker,” lives in the time before daylight. Raven “steals” the sun from a greedy Chief, and brings light to all the people.
This has become a favorite of our daughter, Katie, who just turned 6 years old. While it is often hard to tell why a book resonates with a child, reading this together makes me ponder the possible connections.
Katie loves animals. She is a soul who connects with most every animal she meets on a basic level; when she sits with her pets, it has a fundamentally calming effect on both child and animal, and an unspoken connection is forged.
Like Raven, Katie herself could be described as a “compassionate creator and mischief-maker” and these attributes are central to her personality. One way that she shows this side is her ability to be extremely observant of detail and nuance; she loves to latch on to an aspect of a story or song or image and re-create it as her own.
Throughout How Raven Stole the Sun, Raven’s actions are described as “stealing” the various celestial bodies from the Chief. Raven tricks the Chief into allowing him to open each of the magical boxes containing the stars, moon and, finally, the sun. But right from our first reading together, Katie noticed a subtle change in the narrative at Raven’s final trick:
“He handed him the last box, the box containing the sun. Of course the cunning Raven was waiting for this moment. He opened the lid and freed the sun. What a beautiful sight!
As soon as we finished Katie wanted to read the book again but insisted on a change throughout–she literally has re-written the book. Whenever we read it now, the story is How Raven Freed the Sun.
How Raven Stole the Sun is a joint publication of the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in Washington, DC and Abbeville Press. Visit the Museum website or, if you’re fortunate enough to visit Washington, the NMAI itself to buy this and other wonderful books for both adults and children about the histories and cultures of Native Americans throughout the Americas. All purchases support the NMAI’s mission to advance knowledge and understanding of the Native cultures of the Western Hemisphere—past, present, and future—through partnership with Native peoples and others.