Wednesday, July 20, 2016
Coyote Moon, written by Maria Gianferrari and illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline. Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2016. $20.50 ages 5 and up
Geese hiss and dive,
honk and snap,
nipping Coyote's back.
No eggs for breakfast.
Her sharp eyes spy Rabbit.
She slinks ... "
I read this book a few weeks ago, and it came quickly to mind on my last trip to Winnipeg. As I was driving home, I chanced to see a coyote on the side of the highway. They often look slim and hungry to me; I wondered if it might be a mother searching for food for her young family. That happened only because this book has remained very clear in my mind.
It is quite lovely, with its focus on the hunter. She prowls through city streets in search of whatever sustenance she can find. The senses are stressed as she searches: listening, sniffling, always peering into the darkness. The sentences are short, taking up little space on the dark pages. She uses her acute hearing to listen for small sounds; then, her keen sight and agility to POUNCE on any prey at hand. She lurks in nearby bushes to ensure a surprise attack.
Her prey is also using all of their heightened senses to keep from becoming the coyote's next meal:
Coyote is fast, but Rabbit is faster,
skittering under the slide to safety."
Light returns. Will Coyote finally experience success on this night full of near misses?
Bagram Ibatoulline matches the tension of the hunt in his dark, shadowed paintings while also allowing readers just enough light to see each distinct detail of coyote's body - foot pads, pointed toenails, sharp teeth, lush fur. He changes perspective often, allowing the reader to feel a part of the hunt itself. His Coyote is as real as can be (often maligned as an animal to fear and hunt), yet sympathetic to those who read this story of a mother intent on finding the food needed to provide for her young. The break of day is breathtaking!
Coyote Facts in back matter provide further information, and some quite astounding features:
"Coyotes are thriving because they have been able to adapt to their surroundings. They aren't picky eaters; they're opportunistic. That means they eat what's available. Eighty percent of the coyote's diet includes rabbits as well as rodents such as mice, rats, and voles, but they also eat other kinds of food, depending on their habitat and the season."
There is much more, including a list for other reading and websites which will further inform.