Bronwen, the Traw, and the Shape-Shifter

written by James Dickey

illustrated by RJ Watson

Harcourt Inc 1986


Brownen, with her magic traw, journeys to the squirrel's kingdom, where she courageously battles the Shape-Shifter as it assumes the form of the elements--air, fire, water and the very earth itself. 

Watson's dramatic, mysterious illustrations capture the alternately gentle and fierce moods of Poet Laureate,  James Dickey's richly imaginative epic poem.  


Bronwen discovers she is not the only one afraid of the All-Dark when a flying squirrel taps on her window in the middle of the night.

"You must come with us in moonlight,

You must glide with us and cross

The wide grey star-bright river

In a shawl of riding moss."


"Her feet were swept out from under

And she hung in the curve of a wave;

The bottom-sand swirled up around her

Like the grains in a dust-devil's cave"


"But the earth of the garden was kinder;

Underfoot it could never give way;

It held up the tulips and dahlias 

Just enough, and the roses would stay

Where they wished to, in no earthly danger

Because Bron had been where she'd been,

And the sheaf of the rainbowing sprinkler

Turned round like a fountain she'd seen." 


Above, photos of Jesse holding a stuffed flying squirrel (not the one I rescued, mind you). 

Also from my sketchbook, some preliminary sketches and studies. 

I had never seen a flying squirrel in my life until I started working on this book. One night my cat caught, what I thought, was a mouse. Upon closer inspection I noticed the tiny victim had huge eyes, and realized it was a flying squirrel. There was no way I was going to let my cat eat one of the brave characters of my new book. 

My editor, the wonderful Susan Mihalic, had a pet flying squirrel when she was growing up.