Tony Hillerman,
The Boy Who Made Dragonfly
(1972; University of New Mexico Press, 1986)

The Boy Who Made Dragonfly is Tony Hillerman's version of a story first recorded in writing in 1883. This 81-page book is a reprint of Hillerman's 1972 release of the story, and is for children over 10.

In this story, the A'shiwi (later known as Zuni) became prideful and wasteful of the vegetables they raised. It angered the spirits, who withheld water and created a drought. Because they were starving, the Zunis had to migrate to the home of the Hopis in hopes that the Hopis would share their food -- but when the Zunis abandoned their village, they accidentally left behind a young boy and girl. This is the story of how that boy struggled to keep his baby sister alive, inadvertently saving his people and becoming their leader.

In Hillerman's opinion, this story is the equivalent of a Bible story from the Old Testament. It is meant to teach the history of the people as well as their morals and code of conduct. In true Hillerman style, this is a story that engages all senses and emotions, and it keeps you turning the pages. The narrative flows smoothly and at a rapid pace. The author is a master of the descriptive and makes you see the action as you read.

At the end of the story, Hillerman includes sections on Zuni mythology and attitudes. He explains several points of Zuni culture and the beliefs behind them, creating a mini-course on Zuni beliefs.

Janet Grado did a knockout job on the inside illustrations. They are beautiful, highly detailed and amazingly lifelike. I am always impressed that artists can so accurately depict scenes and people with only pencils and charcoal.

Hillerman has been called "the best Anglo writer on Southwestern Indian themes." He has written several nonfiction books and many mystery novels. Every Hillerman book that I have read has been excellent. The Boy Who Made Dragonfly is no exception. It is a spellbinding story of the highest quality. This one should be in every American Indian folklore collection.

review by
Alicia Karen Elkins

19 July 2008

Agree? Disagree?
Send us your opinions!

what's new