Author: Ray Buckley
Illustrator: Ray Buckley
Publisher: Abingdon Press
Audience: Written for ages 4-8, but appropriate for all ages
Summary: The give-away is a widespread practice among Native Americans. It is both a physical event and a spiritual concept. Through the give-away the community is saying, “This thing of honor we do is more important than anything we might possess.” Families may work for years creating things to be given at a give-away.
In this book, the Four-leggeds and Those Who Fly discover that the Two-leggeds have lost their sense of who they are. The birds and animals offer their most precious gift, even at the cost of their own lives, in hope of restoring humanity. In the end, though, it is the Creator who must choose to give-away. The Creator gives to humankind the most precious gift of all.
Literary elements at work in the story: Science Fiction: personified animals, fable. The artwork in The Give-Away reflects a variety of North American wildlife and plants and includes designs inspired by various tribes. Though the title of the book indicates that this is a Christmas story, for Christians it has a timelessness to it in that it is more a story of restoration of humanity than the birth of the Christ child.
Perspective on gender/race/culture/economic/ability: Ray Buckley is of Lakota/Tlingit/Scots descent and provides an interesting insight into at least one custom of the Native American peoples, the give-away. In a note from the author we also learn a bit about the Northern Plains tribes’ belief that all of creation is part of the sacred hoop. The only character whose gender is known is Grandmother Turtle and the baby who is to come.
Scripture: Isaiah 1:3, Luke 2:7,
Theology: From the author: it is an important theological concept that the birth of Jesus took place in a stable, to signify not just a lowly birth but also in the presence of the Four-leggeds and Those Who Fly. The message of Jesus becomes one not only of restoring humanity to God, and human-to-human, but also of restoring humanity to “all our relations.”
Faith Talk Questions:
- Who are the Four-leggeds and Those Who Fly according to the illustrations in the book? Who did they mean when they said “They have lost their way?”
- Buffalo says “they take more than they need and give nothing back.” Eagle said “They keep more than they can eat, while some are hungry.” What are some ways that you see this reflected in our society and culture?
- At the council, Grandmother Turtle is the one who claims that the animals must “remind them of who they are.” Each animal offers something personal to give away. Name some of those things. Can they give these things away without it costing them their lives?
- After each council member has spoken, a new voice is heard. Whose? The Creator says, “It is I who must give myself away. I must give-away my protection and come vulnerable to their lodges.” How did the Creator plan to do this?
- The “Ancient One” – the tree who had known the Creator the longest – asked what it could give-away to the “Great Mystery become baby.” The Creator said, “You will be his support. You will be his place of rest. You will hold his body. You will hold him up. In the beginning and the end.” What do you suppose that means?
Review prepared by Kelly Hames, MACE, Entering Cohort Fall 2008