Today I am in the mood for a slightly odd Christmas story. Thankfully, a new book discovery fits the bill perfectly. Though not your typical Christmas literary fare, this Canadian winter tale is full of deadpan humor and an anti-consumerism message that will make you smile and warm your heart. Here’s a glimpse of A Coyote Solstice Tale by Thomas King, pictures by Gary Clement, 2009.
I bookmarked this book a while ago with hopes that it would be special enough to add to my wintery, holiday reading. When it arrived, I was very surprised at its size considering it looks and feels much more like a chapter book. But fear not, it is a smart and clever picture book through and through, just in a more compact and perhaps manageable size even despite its added page length.
While the world is covered in wintery snow, Coyote is preparing for a feast with his friends. When a knock comes to his door, he is surprised to find a girl in a reindeer costume of sorts. He decides to be hospitable, despite the obvious awkwardness of communicating with a human who thinks she is a reindeer.
When his friends arrive, they attempt to return her to where she came from, only to discover a gaudy mall on the outskirts of their lush forest. The troop is leery and yet curious so they continue to explore and are soon overwhelmed by the “rough herds of humans” with arms piled high as they fight their way to a cashier. Coyote is instantly caught up in the action, loads his cart full of items and gifts, and is quickly taught a lesson – not only in cash or credit dealings – but in the true meaning of having everything and how to share.
I am delighted to not only read this book again and again, but also to spread the word about it. I love its oddity. The clevery relayed message is entertaining and thought-provoking in a story form that I’ve surely never encountered before. The jacket-flap calls it “A perfect antidote to Christmas” and I think that rather fitting.
The text is loose rhyme, maybe a bit confusing here and there (at least for this poetry novice), but it keeps me coming back again and again to remember how it worded something and ponder the meaning anew. Author Thomas King is a renowned Canadian writer, especially famous for his fiction works about Canada’s indigenous peoples. He is of Cherokee and Greek descent and has such a clever wit to his writing. Pairing this with Gary Clement’s laugh-out-loud watercolor illustrations makes this book a solid winner in my opinion. I deeply adore his animal characters with their wide-eyed expressions and over-extended limbs.
I hope you’ll give this one a read or many and it will delight you as much as it did me. I know the message is going to stick in my head thinking about that little reindeer girl and her profound words:
“I’ve come to the woods, yawned the reindeer
To find friendship and goodwill and peace.”
May we all find that this holiday season outside and hopefully even inside the mall. Follow along our book adventure at 25 Days of Christmas in 2013.