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The Ballad of Blue Eagle
by Steven E. Jones, illustrated by Steven E. Jones, Jr.
ages 4-8 48 pages Synergy Books October 2004 Hardcover    

The Ballad of Blue Eagle takes the reader to Peaceful Valley where animals like Sammy the Squirrel, Arny Armadillo and Pete Rabbit live a harmonious coexistence. Their peaceful life is threatened by the arrival of Clugar the Cougar who likes to feast upon harmless animals. Fortunately Blue Eagle, whose creed is “Do unto others,” comes to the rescue and sees to the ousting of the nasty cougar and the restoration of serenity in Peaceful Valley.

Steven Jones, a Texas native and businessman, has written this 48-page rhyming story featuring animals familiar to most North Americans, to advocate for the “morals and virtues that Jones learned as a child.”1  The story is accompanied by the colorful and captivating watercolor illustrations of Steven R. Jones, Jr., who took inspiration from the illustrations of Peter Spier and Maurice Sendak.

While the illustrations and storyline are admirable, the book suffers from lengthiness and awkward rhyme. The author tries to present the animals in their natural habitat while giving them human qualities. The eagle is accurately portrayed with wingspan measurements, exceptional eyesight and with talons with the “grip of a vise.” However, Clugar the cougar, who does what all carnivores do – eats meat - is portrayed as evil. The “good” herbivorous animals, like Sammy Squirrel and Pete Rabbit, are seen as gentle, industrious and kind. Teachers and parents need to remind children that animals like cougars are not “bad” because they prey on small animals – they are being cougars and they are a necessary part of our world. Likewise, anyone, who has experienced an overpopulation of rabbits or rodents, knows that these animals are not “good” – they do what they do to survive.

The book doesn’t distinguish the natural from the anthropomorphic clearly enough to be either an accurate nature tale or a convincing moral story. This confusion makes the story more appropriate for the older child who can distinguish the “true” nature of animals from the human qualities attributed to fictitious animals.

1BookPros, Publicity Service

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  Barb Taylor, B.Ed./2005 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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