And by the way, the eyes have plenty to take in as well. The story’s good, sure, but it’s William Kent Monkman’s illustrations that bring everything fully to life. The book is drawn in what I can only describe as psychedelic woodcuts. Woodcuts on PCP, if you will. The native people tend to have pretty normal colors and shades, whereas the Europeans are a gaudy cacophony of violent pinks, greens, oranges, and purples. And as for how everyone looks, Monkman bends over backwards to get it right. Coyote, for her part, is decked out in a hot pink tank top, shorts, and running shoes at all times. Columbus is a ridiculous clown with a red nose and bright orange hair. His men resemble an odd assortment of gangster/conquistadors. I think one of them is almost Elvis.
When I said that this book was absolutely original I meant it. The only book you can honestly compare it to, at this moment in time and in terms of content, is John Marsden’s breathtaking The Rabbits. Holy moley, if you combined the two in a storytime you’d have some of the most ethnically conscientious (and depressed) toddlers alive today. In any case, I’m just going to say that as modern legends go, Thomas King struck gold when he chose to tell a whole new kind of Columbus story. Even if you don’t take to it, you’ll have to admit that it’s an amazing creation to behold.
Misc: I would like to point out that Debbie Reese at American Indians in Children’s Literature also gives the book a fine double thumbs up sign.