Arrow to the Sun

CALDECOTT MEDAL WINNER – 1975

Arrow to the Sun

Gerald McDermott, author and illustrator

New York: Viking Press, 1974

36 pp

ages 4+ (for the story, though artwork will interest even younger children)

Interests: Aztec folklore, art, indigenous art, Mexico/Central America, myths

A boy raised by a single mother is taunted by his peers for having no father. He sets out in search of his father, who turns out to be the lord of the sun. (In the age-old tradition of gods coming to earth to impregnate mortal women. In this story he does it by means of a “spark of life” he sends to earth inside a ray of sunshine.) A wise man turns the boy into an arrow and shoots him to the sun. After being put through several trials the boy is accepted by his father and given great powers. The lord of the sun then sends him back to earth to “bring my spirit to the world of men”. (An interesting parallel story to the Christian Christ.)

A pueblo Indian tale very simply told, and illustrated with beautiful paintings in bold geometric patterns, presumably in the folkloric style of the region. The artwork is really stunning, and children will find the graphic illustrations fascinating. There are many motifs, patterns, and colours that reappear again and again, investing the illustrations with deeper meaning and connections… so it warrants closer inspection and repeat reading. At first I thought that the faceless characters would be hard to identify with or feel for, but that’s probably just a grownup’s point of view, since my four-year-old loved the book – we read our library copy at least five nights in a row, by request. I was waiting for questions re. how the lord of the sun could be his father, or how a ray of sunshine could make a girl have a baby, but so far, nothing. (Knocking on wood.)

This story may be of interest to those in single-parent homes… although the fact that his father turns out to be a god may open up a whole new can of worms psychologically. Hmm. I leave it up to you.

(This title at amazon.com)

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All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.
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