Book review: Little Gods, by Leda Zawacki

Zawacki, Leda. Little Gods. Tinto Press. 2017. $15.00. 88p. EBK.

I’m not going to lie: I delved into Little Gods a bit skeptically. While the illustrations were beautiful, I couldn’t find much information about author/illustrator Leda Zawacki, and I questioned her ability to share a Native American creation myth with much authority.  But from our first encounter with the Sky God, I quickly fell in love with Zawacki’s storytelling style.

After the Sky God’s 8-page prequel (based upon a Northwest Native American creation myth first published in 1873 by Joaquin Miller) that leads into Little Gods, we’re introduced to his daughters, the older of whom becomes the focus of our story. According to Leda’s female-centered interpretation of this creation myth, while the Sky God created, his family lived inside a mountain – and, supposedly for their own protection, were never allowed to venture outside. The younger daughter was quite content to remain indoors and learn only the most basic kitchen magic, but her older sister (whom we come to know as Bunny Girl) longs for more. When an accident leads to a chance at freedom, Bunny Girl not only goes into hiding from her father but begins to explore her magical abilities with the help of another runaway girl called Raven.

Zawacki’s watercolor illustrations – with their simple lines and subdued, earthy colors – perfectly compliment both Miller’s text (much of which is used in Sky Gods) and her own original myth. Zawacki sticks mostly with blues, greens, and browns, saving warmer reds to draw attention to moments of passion and violence within the story. Notably, Bunny Girl’s hair and cheeks appear in varying shades of red throughout the story.

Centering on themes of family dynamics, independence, and love, Little Gods is more personal creation story than creation myth. Bunny Girl’s desire for autonomy and adventure, both of which she finds with Raven, will resonate with readers – as will their quickly-blossoming romance, full of the heart-racing, tingly evocations reminiscent of first love.

My only criticism would be that the graphic novel consists more of vignettes than truly linked pieces of a cohesive story. That being said, readers searching for a fantastical, epic love story featuring strong ladies and gorgeous illustrations need look no further. A great next-read for fans of Taproot (Keezy Young) or As the Crow Flies (Melanie Gillman).

Kaitlin Frick
New York Public Library

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