The Wave of the Sea-Wolf

Writing a mystery…

I’ve got to break this post-once-a-week pattern!  Work is keeping me extremely busy. My biggest project right now is my mystery night in the library literacy event. My fourth grade students are currently in the brainstorming/planning phase of their mystery stories. I found a fantastic lesson and great templates to guide them.  Some students have hit the ground running while others are struggling with the story elements. I think that with enough support, I will be able to guide most of my students through the writing process with positive results. My biggest problem is time-not enough of it! I see each class for only 45 minutes a week.  When we get a little more pre-writing completed, I will have to send some work back to the classroom/home for those who want to finish for literacy night.  I am really enjoying this activity as I have not had the opportunity to teach creative writing in ten years. I’ll keep you all posted on our progress!

Perfect Picture Book Friday

Thank you Susanna Leonard Hill for keeping me on track!  At least I am posting once a week, because I would definitely not miss Perfect Picture Book Friday. I look forward to the challenge each and every week!

Title: The Wave of the Sea-Wolf

Story and pictures by: David Wisniewski

Clarion Books 1994

Suitable for: ages 9+

Themes: Native Americans, folklore, ocean, tsunamis

” From the misty land between sea and mountain, the tops of the tallest trees can rarely be seen. But when the clouds part, a marvelous thing can be observed against the sky-a war canoe, trapped in the trunk of a lofty cedar…” And so begins the legend of Gonakadet also known as the Sea-Wolf. Young Kchokeen, a Tlingit princess, journeys to the edge of the ocean with a group of village girls to pick berries after a long winter.  Her mother warns her not to go to close to the ocean, but seeing no danger, Kchokeen disobeys her mother and wades into the bay. While playing in the bay, the princess unknowingly steps on a piece of rotten wood and falls into a very large hole.  Unable to free herself, she sends the girls back to the village to bring help. Kchokeen remains trapped in the hole with a bear cub through the night.  Before a rescue party can reach them a large wave crashes over the hole and lifts Kchocheen and the cub out of the hole and into the water. They cling to a tree until the water recedes.  Cold and tired, Kchoheen gazes into the moon, and in its reflections she meets Gonakadet the Sea-Wolf.  Kchokeen returns to her village with a new power-she can predict the arrival of tsunamis. This blessing  proves to be an invaluable gift when the men in the big ships who wield metal arrive…

Links to resources:

Suggested activities for six multicultural books by David Wisniewski

Why I like this book:  I love sharing folktales with my students.  This one is especially interesting to me because it is based on a Pacific Northwest Native American legend. The area in which Kchokeen and her people lived is a strip of rainforest that runs from present day Washington state to Alaska’s Yakutat bay. I love all of David Wisniewski’s books. He was an amazing artist and storyteller. About ten years ago I taught in a private school that brought David Wisniewski to Dallas for a multicultural presentation. I remember  listening to him in awe as he described his book-making process. He painstakingly carved each detail out of card stock-like paper with an exacto knife tool.  Wisniewski then layered the paper to create a three dimensional effect. He told the students that he used over a thousand blades on a single book. The detail in the waves and the debris and the natives is remarkable. This book is a collection of artwork as well as a retelling of an age-old tale.


26 responses to “The Wave of the Sea-Wolf

  1. Wow, the artwork sounds incredible. As I see my pile of PBs growing by the day, I sometimes worry that I’ll have more than I know what to do with (I live in Italy with no English library nearby, so I have to buy them all) — but I’m usually so enamored of the illustrations, that I started thinking of the expense as an investment in my art collection. And I’ll definitely be adding a Wisniewski book to the pile. Great review – thanks!

  2. The art work on the book cover and your description is mind-blowing. The hours he must invest in text and illustrations for each book must be amazing. @Renee I keep a “To Be Read List When I am next in a big public Anglophone Library.” With PPF that list is becoming enormous. I too love legends and this is a completely new author/illustrator for me. Thank you, Kelly.

    • I can’t remember how long it took Wisniewski to create the illustrations for each book-I know he told us but that was 10 years ago 🙂 I do remember the comment about going through 1,000+ blades for each book. A really amazing author and illustrator-his life ended much too early. But his work lives on-check out his other amazing books!

  3. This sounds like an incredible book to read. Thanks for sharing!

  4. The artwork on the cover of this book is so beautiful! It’s fascinating to hear about his process and how lucky you are to have heard it first hand! Thank you for sharing this book.

    • I do feel lucky to have met Wisniewski-I heard that our school was actually the last one he visited before his sudden death in 2002. It has been ten years, but I do recall being very impressed by his presentation. He left many timeless folktales behind-all beautifully illustrated in his cut paper style.

  5. Your description is phenomenal. Sounds like a must-read!

  6. I love Native American folklore and this books sounds stunning — both story and illustrations. Having visited Alaska, I have a special interest in a book like this. A friend gave me an Alaskan legend about T’wo Old Women” in its 10th anniversary edition. I’ve been anxious to read it. So, your story particularly caught my eye. Thanks for sharing it as I know I will go searching.

  7. You’ve done it again, Kelly! This book looks fabulous. I love that it’s for older readers, and I love Native American folklore. Your description of David’s art and process are so interesting too. I’m so glad to be adding this to our list! Good luck with your mystery project – I guess we all struggle with that not-enough-time thing no matter what we’re doing 🙂 I’m sure the students will benefit from your teaching no matter what!

    • Thanks, Susanna 🙂 Glad I could add something a little different. I hadn’t read this one in a very long time but glad I pulled it out. Thanks for the pep talk 🙂 I think I worry too much-but things usually come together in the end!

  8. Very cool cover illustration! Are they all like that? I like folk tales this sounds like one I have to read! Thanks for sharing it!

  9. I enjoy folk tales too. On the blogging issue, I follow several writers, who blog once a week. I think it’s whatever routine works for you. You’ll figure out the best schedule for you. Mystery night at your library sounds like a fun and challenging project. Good luck.

  10. The cover is beautiful & so is your review.

  11. I live and teach on the West Coast. This sounds like a gorgeous book. I’m going to check my library for it. Thanks!

    Grade ONEderful

    • This book is gorgeous-something fun to do in the classroom is to create art similar to Wisniewski’s-my students used scissors and construction paper to cut animals/shapes to illustrate their own stories and layered to give a similar affect-some beautiful art came out of that project!

  12. Catherine Johnson

    The book sounds amazing with just the story, but the carving side aswell. What an amazing author to do all that. I’m afraid I won’t be carving. Unless I only want to publish one book in my life lol. Thanks Kelly!

    • I hear you-I am not so handy with the exacto knife myself! It is a shame he died so young-Wisniewski actually passed away from an unknown illness in 2002-the same year he visited our school. But his work lives on!

  13. This book looks amazing. I am not familiar with this author, but his illustrations are beautiful. His paper-layering technique reminds me a little of Eric Carle although, it sounds as if Wisniewski’s technique was much more involved. Thanks so much for sharing. I will have to look for his books at our local library.

  14. I agree, there are some similarities, although I think Wisniewski is more detail oriented whereas Eric Carle is more of an impressionist. I love both styles and both illustrators! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by, Natalie!

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