Written by Nancy Wood
Illustrated by Max Grafe
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Candlewick; Library edition edition (July 22, 2004)
Buy This Book on Amazon: Old Coyote
Today's feature is Old Coyote illustrated by Max Grafe. This is a perfect example of one of my favorite types of picture books---elegant, sophisticated, and emotionally compelling.
Max Grafe's work is often printmaking related, an influence that comes through in his mixed media illustrations that recall the unexpected textures inherent in mono prints. The subdued color palette and simple compositions add a sensitivity to what is ultimately a story about the harmonic cycle of life and death. It's a heavy theme here given delicate lightness and grace. The writing is poetic and dignified and the whole book experience is perfectly paced, quietly moving from begining to end. But beware...it may leave you a bit bleary eyed...in a good way.
There are few books about death that handle it so well as this one. Adults and children alike can benefit from a story like this that doesn't explicitly explain or glorify death but that merely shows it as a fact of life whether animal or man. And as much as it is about death, it is also about living a full life. Death may be a definitive end, but when seen in a different way it can be yet another beautiful adventure awaiting us all. It is a good piece for helping younger readers understand this difficult and abstract concept.