Childrens Book Review of Roadrunner's Dance by Rudolfo Alfonso Anaya

by DerdriuMarriner

Surviving awkward stages can be considered part of life’s lessons. Clumsiness describes almost all young animals. One youngster ends up fast and graceful in “Roadrunner’s Dance.”

Folktales are stories which are shared by successive generations of a people’s storytellers. They generally attempt to help their audiences to:
• Comprehend causes and effects;
• Cope with cultural geographies.

They typically employ animals as vehicles of closure.
• Animal characters therefore get human-interpreted behaviors of helping or hindering well-being.
• For example, sharks and snakes have every chance of role-modeling undesirable conduct what with their predilections for biting into food and non-food sources.

It indeed is a snake whose misbehavior becomes problematic in many a tale from the Hispanic and native folklores in the United States of America’s southwest. A rattlesnake therefore resorts to misconduct unbecoming an animal until a brave roadrunner becomes a quick study in “Roadrunner’s Dance.”

Desert landscape is symbolized by Desert Woman in folklore and mythology of ancient America.

White Sands National Monument, Tularosa Basin, south central New Mexico
White Sands National Monument, Tularosa Basin, south central New Mexico


A snake becomes a self-proclaimed king of the road. He does not seek to share power or resources. He enforces a “no-pass” policy in which village elders from all directions find their journey to cultivate fields and visit neighbors road-blocked by the snake’s claims. Travelers fortunately have wise Desert Woman on their side. The female sage hesitates to interfere in the lives of:

  • Animals;
  • People.

She nevertheless inserts a rattle on the snake’s tail-tip while the reptile sleeps under a rocky ledge. But the rattlesnake (Crotalinae subfamily of pit vipers) intimidates all would-be voyagers by not using the rattle -- as Desert Woman intends -- as a warning. The sound is almost as frightening as the bite.


Desert Woman fashioned rattlesnakes with a rattling tail tip as a warning to by-passers in "The Roadrunner's Dance." ~

Adult (probably female) prairie rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis) encircling young'un: Prairie rattlesnakes are New World natives claiming most of New Mexico among their homelands.
New Mexico denizens
New Mexico denizens


Desert Woman asks the animals to make the rattlesnake behave. But the lizard, owl, and quail confess that all animals fear the rattlesnake. Desert Woman creates an animal by molding Sacred Mountain clay. Her creation exists thanks to additional inputs of:

  • Black tail feathers for balance, from the raven;
  • Branches for legs, from the deer;
  • Dark wing feathers for strength, from the eagle;
  • Long, thin reed for mouthparts, from the heron;
  • Shiny stones from the coyote, for eyes.

He nevertheless falls on his face after standing up briefly and tottering wildly backward and forward. The disappointed animals all flee. But the roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) keeps circle dances until dizziness and a pecked-upon tail do the rattlesnake in.


In "Roadrunner's Dance," Desert Woman creates a roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) as a composite of attributes from coyote, deer, eagle, heron, and raven.

Desert Hot Springs, northwestern Riverside County, southwestern California
Desert Hot Springs, northwestern Riverside County, southwestern California



Rudolfo Alfonso Anaya (born October 30, 1937) acknowledges as creative inputs:

  • The Catholicism of his mother’s family of Puerto de Luna-based farmers;
  • The naturalism of his father’s family of nomadic herders on New Mexico’s llanos (eastern plains);
  • The traditionalism of cuentistas (storytellers) near the family home in Pastura;
  • The urbanism of family experiences in Barelas barrio and his matriculations at Albuquerque High School, Browning Business School, and University of New Mexico.

His contributions as author of Roadrunner’s Dance blend beautifully with those of:

  • David Díaz, as illustrator;
  • Hyperion Books for Children, as publisher.

Published in 2000, the folktale cooperates with formal and informal scrutiny by parents and teachers of:

  • Ages 4 – 8+;
  • Preschoolers to third-graders and onward.


Roadrunner's Dance by Rudolfo Anaya ~ illustrated by David Diaz

Because Rattlesnake has taken over the road and will not let any of the people or animals in the village use it, Desert Woman enlists the aid of the other animals to create a strange new creature with the necessary tools to overcome Rattlesnake.
Rudolfo Anaya stories



My special thanks to:

  • Talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the Internet;
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University for superior on-campus and on-line resources.


Cuentista (storyteller) and Chicano literature pioneer Rudolfo Anaya's family home is sited in small, unincorporated community of Pastura in Quay County, area of plains (llano) formerly known as Great American Desert:

Escarpment which defines the northern edge of Llano Estacado ("palisaded plain"), plains stretching from eastern New Mexico into northwestern Texas.
San Jon, Quay County, east central New Mexico
San Jon, Quay County, east central New Mexico

Sources Consulted


Anaya, Rudolfo. 2000. Roadrunner's Dance. New York, NY: Hyperion Books for Children.

“Anaya, Rudolfo Alfonso.” Notable Biographies. Retrieved December 13, 2014.

  • Available at:

“David Diaz.” Experience > Artists. Abilene, TX: National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature. Retrieved December 13, 2014.

  • Available at:

“Rudolfo Anaya.” Children’s Literature: Meet Authors & Illustrators. Retrieved December 13, 2014.

  • Available at:

“Rudolfo Anaya.” Cinco Puntos Press: Authors. El Paso, Texas. Retrieved December 13, 2014.

  • Available at:
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

Yellow circles: heather grey t-shirt ~ Available via AllPosters

Dizzying circles danced by roadrunner lead to rattlesnake's downfall in "The Roadrunner's Dance" by Rudolfo Anaya.
Yellow Circles
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DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 12/13/2014, DerdriuMarriner
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DerdriuMarriner on 12/15/2014

paperfacets, "Roadrunner's Dance" appeals to all ages through captivating illustrations and narrative. Your nephew will assuredly love this story.

paperfacets on 12/13/2014

I am simply enchanted with this introduction to this lovely book. I have a nephew who I think would love to hear this story.

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