Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

The Trees Stand Shining: Poetry of the North American Indians, selected by Hettie Jones with paintings by Robert Andrew Parker, includes prayers, short stories, lullabies, and a few war chants that were passed down orally from one generation to the next over hundreds of years. While the authors of these songs are lost in the swirl of history, their words and lyrics have remained intact. Because native groups had no written documents, it was not until the nineteenth century that their oral history began to be translated and written down. The songs, presented as poems, reveal their attitudes and values toward the earth and their beliefs about their relationship with nature.

Parker’s full-page illustrations face each page of text. No more than three poems are situated on any given page, and they are surrounded by white space. This layout would seem to draw the focus mainly to the illustrations, but the opposite appears to be true. Text and illustration support each other; on many facing pages, Parker’s watercolors speak to multiple poems. In other instances, his softly hued, impressionistic paintings feature a subject of one of the poems. Mysteriously, this approach remains true to the spirit of the poems. Both author and illustrator portray subtleties of mood and expression, as exemplified in this Teton-Sioux poem: “Friend,/ My horse/ Flies like a bird/ As it runs.” The facing page features a young man astride a swiftly moving horse. Parker...

(The entire section is 520 words.)