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Spotting a dancing deer in the forest, the hunter thinks he has found a way to make a fortune by capturing it and selling it to the circus, yet the deer refuses to dance without the birds and so begins a chain of events that leads the hunter to see that the deer belongs free in the woods.
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John Muir once said, "Whenever we try to isolate anything in the universe, we find that it's hitched up to everything else." Indeed. Storyteller and artist Elisa Kleven illustrates this quotation (included in the front matter) with no-less-than-fabulous collages in the exuberant picture book The Dancing Deer and the Foolish Hunter. The story begins when a coonskin-capped hunter--a rather crass, grumpy fellow--spies a deer joyfully dancing in the forest. It's not the reaction we'd expect from a hunter carrying a gun, but he instantly envisions a future for the deer in the circus... and a big pile of cash for himself. And, with a "lightning-swift swirl of his lasso, the hunter caught the deer."
Of course, once ensnared in the hunter's home, the deer "crouched miserably in the corner" because, as she tells him, she needs the sweet singing of birds in order to dance. He goes to the forest to capture birds for her, but of course they won't sing without the "pine trees whistling along with them." ("'Trees, peas,'" scoffed the hunter. 'I'll whistle for them myself!'") You get the idea. Before long the hunter's abode is packed with woodland creatures, and still the deer won't dance. "'Hunter! Stop your foolishness!' the deer cried. 'Just put me back in the deep green forest, along with everything else, and I'll dance by myself!'"
In a funny plot twist, the deer offers the hunter dancing lessons, so he can perform in the circus himself. Children will be drawn right into this story (no doubt feeling protective of the poor dancing deer in the hands of the greedy hunter), and will cheer the satisfying ending where the hunter dances happily ever after and the forest creatures are left in peace. The vibrant collages are wonderfully expressive and accessible, providing countless whimsical details for hours of close inspection. Highly recommended! (Ages 4 to 8) --Karin SnelsonFrom School Library Journal:
Kindergarten-Grade 3--In this allegorical tale told in colloquial language ("Wowie-kazowie, a dancing deer"), a modern-day hunter finds a dancing, talking deer in the forest and drags her home to sell to the circus. When she won't dance and sadly says she needs the music of the birds, he captures some. But in chain reaction, the birds need the soft whistling of the pine trees, which need the sea breeze, which needs the salty sea, which needs a fish, who needs his mother. "How am I supposed to find his mother?" the exasperated hunter asks. The wise deer suggests that if he replaces the fish, the fish will find her all by himself. The foolish hunter realizes, at the deer's suggestion, that he could put back everything, free the deer, and with her teaching become a dancer himself. Which he does. Kleven's signature colorful collage illustrations sing with light and movement and the hunter's return to the forest to leap and dance for four glorious spreads represents pure joy. While the opening quote from John Muir that "Whenever we try to isolate anything in the universe, we find that it's hitched up to everything else," is a worthy message, there is another one as well. The artwork depicts the unendearing hunter's crass materialism; the print on the city's buildings reminds residents to eat, consume, and buy; and the protagonist snaps, yells, and acts imperiously. The author may also be suggesting that to save our gentler selves, we may need to get out of our cities altogether.
Susan Hepler, Burgundy Farm Country Day School, Alexandria, VA
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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Book Description Dutton Children's Books. Hardcover. Condition: New. 0525468323 Brand NEW Book - May have light shelf-wear. Seller Inventory # Z0525468323ZN
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