Coyote Dreams

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by Susan Nunes. Illustrated by Ronald Himler. (Atheneum, 1988 ISBN 0689313985. Order Online.). Picture Book. Grades 2+.
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Review

This is a lyrical adventure of a boy who finds his suburban garden transformed to coyote country at night. Coyotes appear and the boy investigates with joy and wonder, the world the coyotes bring to him. There the coyotes sing their songs, dance and tell their stories, responding to the boy's whispering of their ancient name, "Coyotl. Coyotl." Himler's illustrations are a dreamy watercolor in which things appear as out of a mist. The effects of the moonlight are apparent on every page and there is a dreamlike atmosphere in both the words and the pictures.

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Things to Notice and Talk About

  • Notice the point at which the pictures lose their border as the boy enters the desert world of the coyotes. Notice the vestiges of the world he is leaving.

  • Are there coyotes on every page after that?

  • What other times do you see represented?

  • The story is told in the second person. Are there other books that do the same? What does it do to the story?

  • Ranchers call coyotes, prairie dogs, wolves, wild horses and burros, pests. Which of those are represented here? Which other animals are in the book and would they also be considered pests?

  • What kinds of stories would coyotes tell?

  • What songs might they sing?

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Activities

  • Find out all you can about coyotes. Do they deserve their reputation?

  • Imitate coyote cries and those of the other animals in the book.

  • Can you identify the Indians? Some appear to be of our Southwest and others seem to be South American.

  • Look at the Native American mythology about coyotes as tricksters, especially those of the Navaho.

  • The boy calls them by their ancient name Coyotl. Find out the ancient names of other animals.

  • Look at Wile E. Coyote cartoons. What characteristics does he share with real coyotes? What about Roadrunner?

  • Make your own dream book using a different terrain.

  • The coyote form is sometimes subtle on each page. Can you make a picture in which an animal's form blends in with the scenery.

  • Can you experiment with objects fading away in your own art work?

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Related Books

  • Look at the book Unhuggables: The Truth about Snakes, Slugs, Skunks, Spiders and Other Animals That Are Hard to Love (National Wildlife, 1988 ISBN 0912186917. Out of Print.) Which animals are in both books and which other ones could be in Coyote Dreams, given the desert terrain?

  • Jan Brett's First Dog (Harcourt, 1988 ISBN 0152276505. Library Binding.)is about a wolf. Does it resemble the coyotes? Could a coyote have been the first dog?

  • Compare this book to the books by Byrd Baylor. What is each author's point?

  • Find other dream books. Make a chart to compare the illustrations and the point at which the dream invades.

  • See also the related links below.

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Related Areas within Carol Hurst's Children's Literature Site

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