A very old Navajo grandmother believes it is time her 10-year-old granddaughter, Annie, learns to weave. Gathering her family in the hogan, she asks each of them to choose a gift they wish to have (Annie’s eyes choose the weaving stick) as she announces to her family that when the weaving of the new rug is completed, she will go to Mother Earth.

Determined to delay her mother from finishing the rug, Annie plans her distractions. She acts out in school, letting the sheep out of their pen, and, most significantly, unravels at night what her mother had woven during the day. The adults catch on.

The Old One’s gentle explanations of nature’s ways--the inevitability of death and the ultimate connectedness of the whole universe--eventually comfort and inspire Annie: "The sun rose but it also set. The cactus did not bloom forever. Petals dried and fell to earth . . . She would always be a part of the earth, just as her grandmother had always been, just as her grandmother would always be, always and forever." Annie picks up her grandmother’s weaving stick, kneels at the loom and begins to weave "as her mother had done, as her grandmother had done."


Admittedly, Peter Parnall’s illustrations are stereotypic and inaccurate regarding Navajo culture and tribal life (pot and blanket designs, facial bone structures). Navajo grandmothers would not sit with legs crossed, nor would Navajo children in a traditional setting react to death by acting out (Beverly Slapin and Doris Seale, Through Indian Eyes: The Native Experience in Books for Children. Philadelphia: New Society, 1992, 191-192).

Nonetheless, cherished relationships and possessions as symbols of continuity and solace, natural and symbolic immortality rather than a theologic belief system, and the richness of diversity, are reasons enough to recommend this book. (See also Joy Harjo’s poem, The Dawn Appears with Butterflies, Jane Zalben’s children’s book, Pearl’s Marigolds for Grandpa, and the Ghiralandaio double portrait, The Man with Stars Inside Him, all annotated in this database, for further amplification and nuance on these themes.)


Miska Miles is a pseudonym. The author, Patricia Miles Martin, also used the pseudonym, Jerry Lane.



Place Published

New York



Page Count