Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, Flight of the Hummingbird

I got only the one book for Christmas this year, since we had to buy a new/used car and are going to Europe in February: Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas' Flight of the Hummingbird. I imagine there's a more internationally postcolonial book, but I haven't seen it - a foreword by Kenyan Nobel laureate and environmental activist Wangari Maathai, plus a commentary by His Ubiquitous Holiness the Dalai Lama, for a Quechan myth retold by a Haida artist in what he calls a "Haida Manga" style. Impressive cred, and it's an impressive little book.

Impressive because of the beauty of the images, and because of the memorability of the story. The Flight of the Hummingbird is concisely told and evocatively illustrated, and it makes me excited to see what Yahgulanaas will be bringing out in longer form in 2009.

But yeah, little: the tale itself is only eighteen illustrated pages long, but that's OK. Much more importantly, what's supposed to be an activist story leaves me tired rather than inspired. Good on the hummingbird for doing what it can in the face of crisis, and I know we're meant to understand that its example prodded the other animals toward making their own contributions, but we don't see them making any moves to help out. The hummingbird isn't building a coalition, either, so where's the hope supposed to come from?

It's a variation on the classic test, I guess, on the fullness of the glass. If you assume that people are good, then you assume that the hummingbird's example will motivate the animals. If you don't, well, you worry that the world's doomed.

Well, crap. I worry. And here I am, thinking of myself as sunshine and light....

(Nope, I'm not telling you what the story's about. Google it yourself, or buy the damn book!)


Popular Posts