This is a delightful children''s story about Native American customs, ceremonies and rituals among the members of the Ute Mountain Ute tribe from Colorado. The story revolves around the Bear Dance, a festival which is held each spring to celebrate winter''s passing (and to awaken Brother Bear). It lasts for four days and is an annual get-together where friends and family members get together to have fun. It is told that a Ute warrior was wandering in the mountains and met a Bear, who taught him this special springtime dance. At the first thunder in the spring, the people build a 4-6 foot brush fence of cedar boughs, bring out special musical instruments and prepare to dance and feast for four days. The dance grounds are modeled after Bear''s den. The one opening faces East. The men and women line up separately. The men face east, and the women face the men. Women ask men to dance with them by brushing them with their shawls, while the Cat Man keeps order by frisking people with his willow whip (on the last day of the dance, he pairs the men with the women, and they leave. These often lead to unions which can last for many years).
The story itself begns with a young girl, Autumn Eyetoo, who is going to the dance for the very first time. While she''s there, she brushes a young boy she''s kind of had her eye on for a while. He runs away, faster than Cat Man can catch him. She is disappointed, especially when she sees the young boys dancing (some with more than one partner at a time). So she notices a number of older men who never get asked to dance any more -- the Grandfathers. She goes to her friends and says why don''t we dance with them. Some of the girls are a little embarrassed at the thought, but she goes over and asks one of the old men, and so her friends do, too. There is much happiness for all, and the day becomes known among the people as THE DAY THE GRANDFATHERS DANCED.
It is a beautiful story and a very empowering one, especially, I think, for young girls. The heroine is strong, brave, creative and caring -- a beautiful person (modeled on the author''s daughter, Autumn).