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THROUGH INDIAN EYES: THE NATIVE EXPERIENCE IN BOOKS FOR CHILDREN, Ed. Beverly Slapin and Doris Seale, New Society Publishers, 4527 Springfield Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19143, 800-333-9093; send $3 plus price of book for mail orders. 3rd edition, 1992, 312 pages, reviews, articles, lists, bibliographies, index, $24.95 paper, $49.95 hardcover. 0-86571-213-1; Can 1--55092-165-7
THROUGH INDIAN EYES: HOW TO TELL THE DIFFERENCE, Seale and Sabin, New Society Publishers, checklist for spotting anti-(Indian biases in children's books, extracted from the main volume (above) 32 pages, paper, $7.95
See Long Review of this book and its critria supplement.
The authors, one a children's librarian who is Santee Dakota-Cree, the other a long-time activist author of several anti-bias bibliographies of children's books, were part of a Berkeley group of Native artists, writers and educators called Oyate formed in the 80's to combat racism in education. This book pulls together a number of short articles -- some reprinted from sources that would be impossible to find about stereotyping and inaccuracies about Native people in children's books and education generally (school Thanksgivings come in for knocks from Modoc Michael Dorris for example). There are 124 pages of book reviews -- mostly by the authors -- and a 32-page checklist of how to recognize good and bad children's books on Native Americans (with examples of comparative good and bad for all characteristics),also available separately. Bibliographies are still useful, (though compiled in the early '70's), where certain classics (mostly not children's books) are included. See long review and Oyate catalog sources of hard-to-find books by Native authors. This unique and valuable resource should be owned by all teachers, librarians, libraries, etc., be used or mentioned in education courses and workshops on multicultural education, used or mentioned in Native Studies introductory courses.
The second,small publication is 32 pages extracted from the longer book, revised and updated in 1996. This is much more than just a checklist. The authors attempt to educate people to recognize what's wrong with some books, and right with others. For each of the many qualities it's appropriate to look for, they provide the good aspect and the bad aspect, with examples of each drawn from well-known children's books. Sometimes examples are illustrations, mostly they're passages of text. I recommend this booklet very highly too, but I think everyone should have the complete book. If you're a student, or very poor, get this for guidance. Reviewed by Paula Giese,
CAUCASIAN AMERICANS; BASIC SKILLS WORKBOOK; Beverly Slapin, Illustrated by Annie Esposito; Oyate, 2702 Mathews St. Berkeley, CA 94702; 510-848-6700. 1990, 1994, 46 pp. glossary, list of readings, line drawing illustrations, worksheets. paperback oversize $12.95
This workbook is a parody -- very funny -- of bloopers and offensive passages from popular children's lit by white people about Indians. It's useful for sensitivity and cultural training and education. Teenage Indian kids will like it. Indian teachers at mostly-white schools will chuckle softly. According to a reliable source, it's recently been banned from libraries, classrooms, bookshelves of a Milwaukee Indian Community school when a white principal recently took over, there. The source flip-flops between thinking this is hiularious and wanting to get some kind of civil liberties anti-censorship going on it. I dunno if the banning was because sandwiched right in -- part of -- the parodies are some straight-up realities such as (after a little essay about Caucasian food production), a set of questions, ending with "5. Why were farmworkers often poor and hungry?" Could it be because of the traditional art -- the page borders of classic dollarsigns, the hilarious anthro-bio section on "Caucasian American Leaders"? One actually suspcts Nosensayewma (a common cultural characteristic of the Bureaucratic Tribe) as the basic cause.
This workbook is a very useful tool for workshops and education classes (which is what is was written for). Beverly, who writes from the assumed perspective of "A teacher whose love of white culture has led her to intensive Caucasian studies, which she eagerly shares with her young students" has taken from all-too-real existing books just about every passage, section, worksheet activity, acknowledgements and puff-reviews -- and the bloopers are transmitted in the straightfaced ditzy way of untalented writers of the type she's parodying -- from existing, popular (often prizewinning, prestigious) children's books about Indians. How does or might it feel in today's "multicultural approach to education" (if it were universal, not a one-shot joke) to have your entire culture trashed, made to look both ridiculous and sinister in a relentless idiotic babytalk loaded with a near-totality of errors and misunderstandings? The real purpose of this workbook -- one I think it can in fact serve the reflective even without a formal workshop -- is to help people understand the kind of pervasive cultural domination and inculcation of perverse views that goes on in children's lit about Indians. Highly recommended, including for that principal if she's for real. Schools, colleges, Continuing Ed, and organizations can contact Oyate to have workshops conducted, too. See longer review, including 10 Little Whitepeople. Reviewed by Paula Giese
WHEN THE WORLD ENDED; HOW HUMMINGBIRD GOT FIRE; HOW PEOPLE WERE MADE -- RUMISEN OHLONE STORIES, written and illustrated by Linda Yamane; Oyate, 2702 Mathews Street, Berkeley, CA 94702; 510-848-6700, FAX 510-848-4815; 1995, 44 pages, paperback, storyteller and ancestral story sources bionotes. $10. 0-96251175-1-8.
A handsome children's book, designed and illustrated by Yamane, herself of Rumisen Ohlone ancestry, who is an artist and desirner, as well as basket weaver and participant in the Monterey Bay Cultural History (and language retrieval) project. In the first of the 3 stories here, the world is drowned in a flood. Some birds -- Eagle, the leader, Crow, Raven, and Hummingbird get Hawk ot use one of Eagle's feathers, dive deep under the water and pull the earth back up. In the second story, Hummingbird steal fire from the Badger people, so the birds can cook food they've found on the retrieved earth. The uncooperative Badgers hide their fire, but it shows through a hole in the deerskin cover they pull over it, and Hummingbird reaches through with his long, narrow beak to grab an ember. The flame turned his throat red. In the last story, the birds re-create people and the other animals from clay (which th Badgers show them). The people come alive after they are given black hair. "in the old timees, this story was very long and very beautiful, and it took a long time to tell. Today we know only this much. And we know that we were made from the earth and when we die we go back to the earth."
Very highly recommended, a beautiful book. If you want to learn more about the Costanoan Ohlone people, they have an official website which has enormous amounts of historical, current, and cultural information, and various experimental projects such as a virtual song-lodge (with on-line recorded songs you can hear). Webmaster is Canadian Mohawk Russ Imrie, who settled in California and became close to the Ohlone people, and began managing a website for them as a college student. See longer review .Reviewed by Paula Giese
TJATJAKIY-MATCHAN (COYOTE): A LEGEND FROM CARMEL VALLEY, written and illustrated by Linda Yamane; Oyate, 2702 Mathews Street, Berkeley, CA 94702; 510-848-6700, FAX 510-848-4815; 1995, 1995, 17 pages, paperback, . $6. 0-9625175-3-4
Say CHA-cha-ky-uh-MAH-chan when you order this recommended book from Oyate. Ramirez tracs his ancestry to his many-tims great grandfather, Amadro Yeuschorom, one of the first California Ohlone to be baptized by Fr. Junipero Sirra in 1774. After meeting Linda Yamane, who was working on reconstructing old stories from notes in Spanish left by a 1930's anthropologist, he was interested in recalling what he could of his own grandfather, Juan Onesimo, one of the storytellers who was recorded.
This charming children's tale is a result. Coyote, a tricksetr, first tricks the proud Fox into helping hold up a cliff. Fox doesn't believe it's falling until he sees the moving clouds (which coyote tells him are actually the cliff moving away from the clouds, the way it really does look sometimes). Later, there's a different-ending variant on the Aesop tale of the Fox who tricks a dog into jumping in a well to retrieve the moon's reflection. In this story, Coyote tells Fox the reflection in the lake is a cheese he's been guarding for Fox to make up for his trick about the cliff. Fox jumps in and dives, and is soon joined by many other animals, jumping, diving, splashing around. "Coyote stood far off, listening to all the animals having so much fun, and Fox was right in the middle of all the excitement....If only he had not played that last trick on Fox, he would also have someone to play with, but instead he was here all alone." So he howls the eerie night howl of the lonesome coyote, heard by little Alex and his grandfather after dinner one night long ago, and Manuel Onesimo tells Alex -- now himself a grandpa with a whie mustasche quite like Manuel had in the 1930's -- this story about why Coyote is lonely.
The little book is illustrated with Ramirez's pencil sketches. Unfortunately, these will not appeal to children. If they had been scanned into Photoshop, the contrast could have been increased to make them stand out better, as they were printed, they are light grey and blurry-looking. The story is interesting , and should hold pre-reader children's attention if told or read aloud. See longer review. Reviewed by Paula Giese
FROM ABENAKI TO ZUNI: A DICTIONARY OF NATIVE AMERICAN TRIBES, by Evelyn Wolfson, illustrated by William Sauts Bock, Walker and Company, New York: 1988. Paperback, 1995. 215 pages, index, bibliography, appendix tribal listing. $9.95 paperback. 0-8027-7445-8
As Through Indian Eyes is exmplary of a good reference, so Abenaki to Zuni is exemplary of a bad one, so thoroughly bad that a careful analysis may help educate authors, publishers, librarians and teachers to see what comprises badness in reference works, as TIE helps them understand it for works of fiction and imitation.
This reference work for children and young people has been a good seller and favorably reviewed in non-Indian periodicals on children's books. It is a weapon of cultural genocide, whose principal disgrace is not due to its ignorant author, but to Harvard professor Jeffrey Brain, of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, who reviewed the whole thing and writes a foreward commending the author's historical accuracy. Read long long review-analysis of this incredibly awful children's reference work, which has been well received by white educators, and after good hardcover sales now comes out also in paperback. The long review is a kind of essay intended to help non-Indian teachers a about Native peoples.nd librarians recognize what is bad, and why, in children's reference works. Paula Giese
ALPHABET, COUNTING, COLORING BOOKS
Often this kind of book looks like such an EZ thing to do that people who are untalented in writing for children take it on. A good alphabet book (regardless of its subject) has several characteristics that ctually make it one of the more demanding forms of children's lit. Of first importanc, the book is the =first step in learning reading. So rcognition of letter-shapes in relation to sounds is of key importance. Picking the word -- and the picture which illustrates that word and must be immediately obvious to the child -- is of first importance. Second, the text accompanying the letter must be interesting or catchy, so the child wants to read it, and may even memorize it after hearing it read a few times. Rhymes and catchy Dr. Seuss are excellent for this purpose. |For Indian alphabets there are several problems. Those which are intended to teach both language and letter ecognition are best prepared by tribal people, at the very least a language teacher who is experienced in working with Native children (who are not learning the language spoken at home, or who are native-speakers and are now learning to read) is essential. Such alphabet books have no general use except as examples to other curriculum writers; they are teaching materials for that particular tribe only. The alphabet books reviewed here might be termed "English language ABC's with cultural content.". They are very tricky to write and can utterly confuse a small child if not done well. They can also be inadvertantly racist, picking various Indian stereotypes for the words whose initial letters are illustrated. Finally, in general such an ABC cannot serve its actual purpose (teaching letter shape/sound recognition) just because the non-stereotypical &Indian word or concept" is not such a familiar part of the child's life that the picture is itself immediately recognizable by the simple word whose initial letter-sound the child is learning. Thus if objects are used for letters which are not familiar parts of the child's life, the purpose of learning the association between letter-shape and sounds is defeated, because the word whose initial sound is being learned is not obvious to th child. Alphabet books ar really the hardest to do, more difficult than writing childrens stories. Cross-cultural ones are in my opinion impossible, because they are self defating for the purpose of learning to associate the initial sound of a known word with a particular letter-shape, via the medium of a familiar object whose name-sound is known. Below, several attempts (all by Native authors) are reviewed.
A,B,C's : THE AMERICAN INDIAN WAY, by Richard Red Hawk. Sacramento : Sierra Oaks, available from The Mail Order Catalog 800-695-2241, 1988, 56 pages, $6.95 (Grades K-3)
An unfortunate attempt to "Indianize" the usual ABC book. This version comes out over-simplified often to the point of confusion. A book to avoid. Reviewed by: Lisa Mitten and Naomi Caldwell-Wood
NAVAJO ABC: A DINE ALPHABET BOOK, written by Luci Tapahonso and Eleanor Schick, illustrations by Eleanor Schick. Simon and Schuster, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, N.Y., NY 10020, (800) 223- 2336, FAX: (212) 698-7007. Illustrated, glossary. 32 pp., $15.00 cloth. 0-689-80316-8, Ages 3 - 5
Children will be totally baffled by this mis-named book, which should be titled "Mostly English ABC with a Navajo Word Guide in Back." Each page presents a letter from the English alphabet combined with a pictured item appropriate to the Navajo culture. Most of the words for the items, however, are in English also (a Navajo word doesn't occur until the letter "I"), leaving the reader to look in the glossary for the word in Navajo. Though the colored-pencil drawings make it easy to identify the item associated with the word when it is written in Navajo ("zas" is snow), Tapahonso, evidently, doesn't share this faith. Grade: C. Reviewed by Steve Brock
A Second Look Luci Tapahonso is a well-known, talented poet, whose poetry is reviewed on the ADULT page. This book is a good indication of how hard the cross-cultural ABC task is.
THE PATH OF THE QUIET ELK: A NATIVE AMERICAN ALPHABET BOOK, written and illustrated by Virginia A Stroud, Dial Books for Young Readers, division of Penguin Books USA, 375 Hudson Street, New York, NY, 10014, 800-253-6476. 1996. hardcover, 32 pages, $14.99 (US), $21.75 Can. Ages 5 - 9
Stroud, a well-known Cherokee artist, has taken a different tack for ABC books. Although this is structured as an alphabet book, it's really a story, for older children able to understand sometimes abstract philosophical concepts, with one of Stroud's charming, highly stylized illustrations on every page. The publishers recognize that it really isn't a learn your ABC's preschooler's book, and call it verbal mnemonics, 26 ways (one for each letter of the alphabet) for the child to "connect to nature"
A medicine woman, Wisdom Keeper, takes a little girl, Looks Within, for a learning walk on a path that is shown them by an elk, but is really "a way of looking at life" not a particular forest path. Stroud says she learned these various teachings from such nature walks over a 6-year period with an unidentified Medicine Woman. A few things she really didn't learn right.
We don't briskly ask a cedar permission and start snapping its branches; cedars are very sacred. Someone gathering cedar will pray, bury or sprinkle or burn tobacco, and often give the cedar some other gifts of respect. Burning cedar is not an "I-is-for-incense that helps our prayers ascend" (if anything, that's tobacco smoke); it is a smudge that purifies people and premises before or at the start of ceremonies (the smudging might be the only ceremony, a cleanup). Cedar branches also line the sitting area in a sweat lodge.
I got kind of upset about M-is-for-medicine-wheel, which the publisher even features to illustrate the catalog page for this book. This is a tipi-sized circle of small stones they happen upon in the woods. Wisdom Keeper tells the child it's a Medicine Wheel, she can sit in the center of it and perhaps have a vision. Actual stone medicine wheels are very large constructions up on high, barren places of the Northern high plains and Rockies. They were solar and star-rising observatories. Some later became memorials to honored dead chiefs. Small circles of stone found all over the prairies are tipi rings, just left when no longer needed to hold down the tipi covers against the high winds of open camps. They have no spiritual significance, and there are no tipi rings in the woods anyway.
These perhaps are quibbles -- I liked the book and loved the artwork (I'm a big Stroud art fan) -- but Wisdom Keeper's philosophy unfortunately is a mixture that seems rather more Nuagey than Native, at times. Probably part of this is due to a certain strain caused by trying to shoehorn a nature-values teaching story into the alphabet structure. It might have been better to forget the ABC idea. This would avoid confusing oddities like "K-is-for-(corn) kernel," HEY! what is a corn kernel doing lying on the ground in the woods? See longer review Reviewed by Paula Giese
Another art-literature form that can be rather difficult to do well. Are the pix authentic Native designs or drawings? Is there some info provided about them -- a little simple story, perhaps? What works well for a coloring book for young children -- heavily outlined simple drawings with largish white areas and not too much detail -- is a form not suited very well for children's coloring books (which with very little kids often just get covered all over with bright scribbles anyway). I'm looking at coloring books in terms of educatioal value they might have for different ages.
A COLORING BOOK OF HIDATSA INDIAN STORIES BASED ON THE LIFE AND DRAWINGS OF EDWARD GOODBIRD, Compiled by Roberta Krim and Thomas Thompson; Minnesota Historical Society, 345 Kellogg Boulevard, St. Paul, MN 55102, 800-647-7827; 1988, 32 pages, bibliography, map; paperback oversize, $3.95. 0-87351-229-4
Goodbird, a Hidatsa who lived from 1869-1938, belonged to the Hidatsa family to whom Minnesota ethnologist Gilbert L. Wilson became very close, as he spent all the summers with them for many years in the early 1800's and after. Wilson told the stories of Goodbird's mother, both as a little girl living in the old way and in the fascinating agricultural book by his mother reviewed in the adult section here. Wilson met Goodbird when he was in his mid-forties, and told the entire story of Goodbird's life -- a life after the smallpox had nearly wiped out the nation, and the white man had drowned the traditional village under dammed waters. The coloring book's simple stories -- little excerpts and facts from the traditional Hidatsa life and from Goodbird's upbringing as white culture had changed many ways -- come from Goodbird's own story, and that of his mother's girlhood remembrances. Goodbird drew (and often colored) most of these drawings that illustrate the stories Wilson collected from himself and other Hidatsa at Fort Berthold reservation, As mentioned in the review of his mother's garden and food book, many models were made -- mostly by Goodbird himself -- for Wilson of "old time" objects, tools, etc. North Dakota. Simplified to outline drawings, they make a fine traditinal-lifestyle coloring book for younger children, with interesting and historically and culturally accurate info from Goodbird's own recollections and drawings telling what's going on in the pictures. The bibliogrpahy will be especially useful for teachers and parents. Eventually all the books will be reviewed here in a kind of "Hidatsa exhibit" with a school study guide. Reviewed by Paula Giese
DAKOTA INDIANS COLORING BOOK, Drawings by Chet Kozlak, Dakota language and cultural info: Elsie M. Cavendar, Lorraine Cavendar-Gougé, and Mary C. Riley, Sisseton Band Dakota (Upper Sioux Reservation), and Evelyn M. Prescott, Mdewakanton Band Dakota (Lower Sioux Reservation); Minnesota Historical Society, 345 Kellogg Boulevard, St. Paul, MN 55102, 800-647-7827; 1979, 32 pages oversize paperback $3.50, map, historical introduction, 0-87351-149-2
This coloring book has much more elaborat black and white drawings, not just outlines, and will be appealing to oldeer children to color in for historical projects. It has beenn carefully researched by Minnesota Historical Society pros, as well as by 4 women from local Dakota reservations, who supplied short captions in Engolish and Dakota-translations describing the daily activity going on, the names of plants or objects shown, etc. I would have like more info -- a short lifestyle essay for each full-page to-be-colored activity, which would have doubled the size of the book, but would have greatly increased its educational value. The intro does mention, though not in the complet cite style of a bibliography -- two Historical society pamphlets for younger readers. The current versions of these are: M-29 ($1.50) GOPHER HISTORIAN LEAFLET: THE DAKOTA OR SIOUX, for age 8+, and for 12+, a 40-page booklet, R-12-2A), THE DAKOTA, $3.50.
This coloring book's more elaborate illustrations, with bits of info and Dakota phrases lends itself well to a class unit studying Dakota (Eastern Woodland Sioux). The illustrations are more sophisticaedc professional line drawings, which were researched to depict accurately pre-contact Woodland Dakota life. Tribal women concerned with education helped with topics and the Dakota captions. At the time this coloring book was done, both small tribes had to send their children to the local (very racist) public schools in southwestern Minnesota (Upper Sioux still does; Lower Sioux has recently started a tribal K - 12 school). It was hoped this and some other Historical Society books for youngsters could overcome some of the racism their kids were subjected to, which did happen when parents used these books at home (but not otherwise). The pictures and their captions give interesting glimpses of traditional woodland life. For example, women are shown up to their necks in water, towing a canoe, gathering psin chincha or arrowhead tubers. There's enough info there to figure it out. But perhhaps it would be better told: In October, when the tubers contain the maximum stored food to get the plant through the winter and start it growing in late spring, women gathered tubers by going in the very cold lake edges and marshes and feeling them out with their toes in the mud. Dislodged tubers float to the surface, to be tossed into a canoe.
This is an interesting coloring book for older kids, who can get quite fancy with it, and may use other books to research and write stories about their pictures for an attractive classroom display. In addition to the large lifestyle pictures -- one of them a double-page spread of a tribal sports gathering -- smaller pictures of traditional plants, beadwork and painted buckskin traditional designs, clothing and tools are provided. The book ends with a black and white drawing made from sketches and the oil painting of the famous war leader known to white historians as Little Crow. Calling him Kangi Cistinna doesn't help, since that was only his youthful nickname, most likely used only by whites. Ta Oyate Duta, (Red Nation Leader) was his actual name, during his manhood and old age. Older children using this coloring book will find it most interesting if one of the other local histories of the Dakota people written for their age-level is read, too. Reviewed by Paula Giese
OJIBWAY INDIANS COLORING BOOK, Drawings by Chet Kozlak, translations James E. Clark, Mille Lacs Ojibwe Reservation; Minnesota Historical Society, 345 Kellogg Boulevard, St. Paul, MN 55102, 800-647-7827; 1979, 32 pages oversize paperback $3.50, map, historical introduction, 0-87351-146-8
The outline pictures to be colored here are of the more elaborate type, which will make good classroom bulletin board displays. With the help of elders from the Mille Lacs Ojibwe reservation, the MHS has a produced a coloring book of the seasonal round of food gathering for Ojibwe people in pre-contact time. The 4 seasons are named with Ojibwe words, and there is an English and Ojibwe description of what's going on captioning each picture. The year starts with Spring (Zee-gwun), and scenes from maple sugaring. Sap is being boiled in 21 kettles, and in the background , outside a temporary birch-bark tipi, a wopman is working finished sugar in a wooden trough to granulate it. Other sugaring scenes show bringing downed wood and tapping (oo-szhi-gah-ee-gay) a tree. Sugar is showin being stired and worked, and poured into the carved wooden molds that made fancy gift-cakes (muffin pans are used nowadays). To mark the start of the new season, there is a page of a close-up of 2 important plants: cattails and bloodroot, and several traditional old beadwork designs, done very large in outlines for coloring. Then comes Nee-bin (summer), with scenes of outdoor cooking, fish-net mnding, making baskets and trays from the birchbark that was gathrd during maple sugaring. Canberry and raspberry plants and a page of the curvy plant designs that characterize Anishinaabeg beadwork mark the start of Dah-gwahgin, Autumn, the wild ricing season (wher fishing and fish drying is also going on at the rice camp). Two food plants that elders didn't remember the names of mark the division betwen fall and Bii-boongh, winter. The one on the left is not known today because it grows on the prairies, not the northern woodlands where Ojibwe reservations are now located. Dakota people know it as Teepsina (and further west, teepsila), prairie turnip. Ojibwe people used to call it Opeeneeg, Indian potato. The hog peanut shown is a kind of wild bean, In winter, the food activities shown are hunting and trapping, and the plants that end the year -- sarsaparilla vine and butternuts -- are not actually gathered then. The coloring book starts with a very short explanation that would have been more useful if a calendar with Ojibwe month-names had been added, and perhaps a bit more info about plant and food preparation than can be gathered from the pictures and their short captions.
Nevertheless, this is an educational and enjoyable coloring book, containing reasonably accurate information in the form of interesting pictures to color and perhaps post for a classroom display on woodland (lakes) traditional foods and food preparation and the traditional daily life of th 4 seasons. See longer review Recommended. Reviewed by Paula Giese
IKTOMI AND THE DUCKS, Paul Goble. New York : Orchard Books, 1990. (Picture book; ages 3 - 10), 32 pp, 0-531-068129
All of Paul Goble's books are highly recommended, especially the Iktomi stories, which perfectly convey the lessons and spirit of trickster stories. Goble flawlessly captures the flavor of Indian humor and the easy blend of cultures so common in contemporary Indian America, and so lacking in the works of other authors. Reviewed by: Lisa Mitten and Naomi Caldwell-Wood
Second Look: This is one of a continued series by Goble, published by Orchard, on Iktomi, the Lakota trickster, who sometimes manifests as a spider. In general, Iktomi (also Unktomi for Woodland Dakota) is a bad guy, representing human qualities of greed, deceit, treachery. He often outsmarts himself or is outsmarted. In this case, he tricks some ducks into dancing with closed eyes, so he can kill and cook them. But while he's sleeping as the ducks bake in clay in the ashes, Coyote comes along and eats them. The legend is also found in an Ojibwe form, where it explains why some ducks have red eyes (escaped by seeing what happened, eyes reddened by smoke).
All of Goble's many children's books (almost all of them Lakota, a few Cheyenne and Blackfoot stories) are color-illustrated by his elaborate, beautiful Native-style pictures and small black and white designs, that are influenced by southwestern hunting charms and Lakota year-count glyphs . Goble travelled in Indian country for many years (sometimes with Richard Erdoes) after he became interested in Native history -- mostly of Lakota people -- and wrote some children's history books in the late 1960's based on his wife's research.
Many of his dozens of Plains legends in small books for children are based partly on research but partly on stories he was told. In the Iktomi stories, he adopts a storyteller's manner of involving the audience by asking them questions. These are in the form of italicized asides sprinkled throughout the text, to be asked by someone reading aloud, or for the young reader to ask herself. The style works especially well in read-aloud small circles of Indian kids -- the reader asks the question, then passes the book to one of the other kids who answers it. Parents or aunties can use the same tactic to pass the book back and forth between themselves and a child or children.
Lakota Iktomi (and Dakota Unktomi) stories are all characterized by a noteworthy failure of the trickster's tricks to succeed, almost always. He is not a mythic figure like Raven or Coyote (for other culture groups) but rather a representation of all human bad qualities, from laziness and greed to cowardice and treachery. The stories are really cautionary tales, which traditionally educated children with amusing fables that had a serious hidden message: don't be greedy, tricky, treacherous, lazy, rash, cowardly, like Iktomi, because his tricks are generally defeated anyway.
Though Goble is not Indian, he has been closely involved with Native people and supportive of Native causes for more than a quarter-century. His books are thoroughly grounded in the cultures of Plains peoples, and have been considered culturally preservative and used in Lakota reservation schools for many years. Recently a Dakota (eastern Woodland) elder and culture teacher told me he considered these books excellent for Dakota cultural education children's classes too, though the eastern Woodland Dakota did not have most of the lifestyles and habits of the western division out on the plains. Reviews of Goble's history books for older Middle school and teenagers will be found in the Middle School section. Reviewed by Paula Giese
Books by Paul Goble available from Amazon.com.
IKTOMI AND THE BERRIES, Paul Goble, NY: Orchard Books, 1989, 32 pp. 0-53105819-0
Fruitlessly, Iktomi the Lakota trickster bad-guy attempts to get some buffalo berries for himself, tricking other animals into doing th work. Same style of questions-to-audience (or young reader) in italicized asides. Reviewed by: Paula Giese
IKTOMI AND THE BUFFALO SKULL, Paul Goble, NY: Orchard Books, 1991. 32 pp. 0-5310591-1
The Lakota spider-trickster interrupts a powwow of the Mouse people, and has to hide in a buffalo skull -- where he gets stuck. Goble's beautiful illustrations are also quite humorous. Same technique of italicized aside questions from the storyteller. Reviewed by Paula Giese
IKTOMI AND THE BOULDER, Paul Goble, NY: Orchard Books, 1988, 32 pp, 0-53105760-7
The Lakota spider-trickster Iktomi gets in trouble as, with the aid of some bats, he tries to defeat a huge boulder (which actually represents Tunka, the sacred Rock). The bats are changed into small stones, which is why the Plains are covered with many small stones today. The same method of italicized storytller questions as asides throughout the story. Reviewed by Paula Giese
IKTOMI AND THE BUZZARD, Paul Goble, NY: Orchard Books, 1994, 32 pp. 0-53106812-9
The Lakota spider-trickster tries to fool a buzzard into carrying him on his back across a river. It doesn't work. Style, storyteller method of italicized question-asides from storyteller to children, excellent way of involving them when book is read aloud, and seems to work well for comprehension when early reader is reading it. Does not interfere with story and isn't condescending. Reviewed by Paula Giese
BEYOND THE RIDGE, Paul Goble, NY: Bradbury Press, 1989, 32 pp color illustrations. Ages 4 - 9. 0-80327032-1
A story based closely on Lakota belief and custom to help young children understand and deal with the death of someone close -- all too common in Native families. It is Grandmother's time to leave her family and journey "beyond the ridge" to the spirit world. Grandmothr's spirit watches and comments as her family prepares her body in the traditional way to be wrapped and placed in a tree scaffolding, beyond the ridge. A sensitive and informative storybook that expresses the concept of passing from one life to a spirit-life which some (but not all) tribes share. Reviewed by Paula Giese
THE GIRL WHO LOVED WILD HORSES, Paul Goble, NY: Bradbury Press, 1978, reissued in papeback, 1990, Aladdin (division of Maxwell-Macmillan), NY and Toronto, 1990, $5 paper. 32 pp color illustrations. Ages 4 - 9. 0-87888121-2.
A classic Plains tale (based on a Cheyenne myth) which won the Caldecott Medal for Children's Literature the year it was first published, 1978. The young girl is devoted to the care of hr tribe's horses (but really loves the wild ones that run free). Eventually she becomes a wild horse to run free forever. The 1978 award winner has been reissued in paperback. Reviewed by Paula Giese
BUFFALO WOMAN, Paul Goble, NY: Bradbury Press, 1984, Reissued in 1990 (NY and Toronto) by Aladdin (paperback) books, a division of Maxwell-MacMillan $5 paper. 32 pp color illustrations. Ages 4 - 9. 0-102-737720-2
A Plains Native hero (great hunter who has always respected the buffalo) is given a supernatural wife -- a buffalo woman from the Buffalo Nation. The hunter's relatives don't like her, and one day when the hunter is away, the Buffalo woman takes their son and leaves. The hunter follows, but must face dangers, then pick his wife and son out from the Buffalo herd. His supernatural son helps, and he rejoins his family -- as a member of the Buffalo Nation, transformed to a young buffalo bull. Goble's usual respect, clear writing, and gorgeous illustrations. Reviewed by Paula Giese ch38
WHALE BROTHER, Barbara Steiner, illustrations by Gretchen Mayo, Walker and Company, 435 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014, (800) AT-WALKER, (212) 307-1764 FAX; simultaneously in Canada, Thomas Allen and Son Ltd, Markham: Ontario. 1988, paper, 28 pages 8 x 12 oversize, $6.95, 0-8027-7460-1
This beautifully illustrated book is an example of a depiction of Native life by a person who knows absolutely nothing about Inuit people's living conditions in the past, and has created a mini-legend about a white suburban family in brownface and furs. Omu, who wants to be a carver, lives in an igloo (snow dome), which means he is in the central Arctic, and it is winter. He trades his spear -- which he happens to jsut carry around -- for a harmonica to a trader. We can stop there a moment and note that traders (and no one) visited the central Arctic in winter during the period -- before World War II -- when Inuit people built winter igloos. It's the winter night there then! Kids didn't fossick around looking for things to do and giving away valuable survival possessions, sasurvival occupied the people -- including all non-infants -- in this toughest of environments. Anmyway, Omu can't play the thing, so when pops rprimands him for making noise in the igloo, he goes outside (into the 40 below dark) and plays this metal instrument. Kids and adults make fun of hisa artistic and musical ambitions, so Omu swipes a kayak and goes off by himself. Somehow there is no shore ice, he makes friends with a pod of Orcas who (unlike dolphins) aren't the least friendly to humans, and certainly don't hang around shallow bays to get killed by the People, who greatly value their flesh, fat and bones.
One day when he's playing around in the valuable kayak he sees one of the whales beached. Instead of telling his people about this bonanza, he stays away from home, keeps it alive for 4 days pouring water over it from a handy bucket and plays his harmonica for it. This wouldn't work, because a beached whale, even small orcas, dies of its own weight maldistributed on land, but never mind. The other whales in the shallow bay, toss him a walrus tusk, which he carves into a likeness of Skana, that takes in the spirit of the dead whale. He returns home and says he's sorry his parents worried (actually they wouldn't have worrid, the kid's gone 5 days they would certainly assume he was dead, and in fact he would be dead if it was really the Arctic), but he had to stay with this dying whale, his bro. The parents show no interest in the whale (Arctic natives would have been off at once in an umiak to flense as much as was left befor birds and other scavengers got it -- which would be long before the whale finally expired). Instead of supposing he must be some kind of evil spirit to have taken off so oddly and survived (and probably killing him), they praise him for the fine carving and his newfound talent at playing a metal harmonica without freezing his mouth. This is a white lady's fantasy that bears no relationship to Native life in the Arctic, native customs, native values, native lif, native stories. Her little moralistic tale has nothing to do with Inuit life nor Inuit art, except to deny and falsify everything it's about. Beautifully illustrated example of a bad book. Reviewed by Paula Giese, ch40
BLACK ELK: A MAN WITH A VISION, Carol Greene. Chicago :Children's Press, 1990. (Grades 3-5)
Although consistent with the material in Black Elk Speaks, this retelling of Black Elk's vision is so oversimplified that it sounds ridiculous and muddled. The illustrations, mostly period artwork, are poorly chosen and often have nothing to do with the text. Reviewed by Lisa Mitten and Naomi Caldwell-Wood
INDIAN CAMPFIRE TALES: LEGENDS ABOUT THE WAYS OF ANIMALS AND MEN, W.S. Phillips. New York : Platt & Munk, 1963. (Grades 3-5)
This is an example of the legion of collections of generic "Indian legends" that have been published over the years. What Phillips has compiled is a mishmash of tales of unknown origin. No effort was made to identify the source of the stories or the people who created them. The reader is led to believe that one "Indian" legend is about the same as any other. This is why children come in to libraries looking for information on "Indians" instead of on the Lakota or the Oneida or the Choctaw. The illustrations are based largely on pictographs and rock paintings that have no relation to the stories being told. The introduction claims that "the stories are histories of the tribes", which makes no sense in the context of this book. A book to avoid. Reviewed by Lisa Mitten and Naomi Caldwell-Wood
TEN LITTLE RABBITS, Virginia Grossman. San Francisco :Chronicle Books, 1991. (Picture book), ages 3-6.
A twist on the counting book theme featuring rabbits dressed as "Indians" and involved in "Indian" activities. Although the illustrations are beautiful, the messages conveyed are confusing. Each page shows the rabbits/Indians dressed in the manner of a different tribe, but this isn't explained until the end of the book, in an afterward. The impression given is one of generic "Indianness", and once again animals "become" Indians simply by putting on certain articles of clothing, relegating an entire race to the status of a role or profession. A book to avoid. Reviewed by Lisa Mitten and Naomi Caldwell-Wood
POCAHONTAS: GIRL OF JAMESTOWN, Kate Jassem, 1979, Troll Associates, easy native biographies series, Grades 3-5
This is one of a series of easy school research assignment-type Native biographies for children, published to capitalize on interest in Indians presumably aroused by the publicity surrounding activities of the American Indian Movement. Because they may still be in school holdings and still be plowed through by kids, iespecially interested in Pocahontas because of the Disney cartoon, it's given a downcheck here (along with any of the rest of these Troll bios).In Through Indian Eyes reviewers said: What we have here is formula non-fiction. Their lives, and the circumstances surrounding them, have been so sanitized, so whitewashed, as to have lost all meaning. All of these books are filld with made-up conversations. In the case of Pocahontas, Sacajawa, and Squanto, most of the rest is made up too.
I understand that an author might wish to spare young children som of the grislier aspects of the history of Indian-white relations. It is clear that some effort has been made to show the ways in which Native Peoples have suffer4ed at the hands of white governments. But there is no sense that what was done to the Natibve populations was wrong. Their inevitable defeat by superior numbers and "civilization" is a strong underlying theme.
The illustrations for the most part suit the texts. In Pocahontas, for instance, "Powhattan" (this is not his name, actually), wears a Plains-style eagle-feather bonnet (streotype of Indian) all the time. None of the drawings bears even superficial resemblance to the real historical people of this series.
These books all feed directly into the myths of superiority and infallibility of white American institutions, myths that are force-fed to children in school. Books to avoid. Review abridged from Through Indian Eyes, 1992, Beverly Slapin and Doris Seale
HERE COMES TRICKY RABBIT and BIG TROUBLE FOR TRICKY RABBIT; NATIVE AMERICAN TRICKSTER TALES, retold and illustrated by Gretchen Will Mayo, Walker and Company, 435 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014, (800) AT-WALKER, (212) 307-1764 FAX; simultaneously in Canada, Thomas Allen and Son Ltd, Markham: Ontario; 38 pages, hardbound, color illustrations, anthro-explanatory post-note, bibliographical sourcenotes, $12.95; 0-8027-8273-6 (Here comes...); 0-80027-8275-2 (Big trouble for...)
Mayo, an elementary teacher and children's book illustrator-writer, has retold (combining and homogenizing) a number of Native trickster myths from different tribes for 2 trickster animal figures (in this series Rabbit, in another Coyote). Thw stories are written in the kind of simplified language with child-appealing sound effects a children's circle library reader might use, but a Native storyteller doe snot. Each of th tales is crditd to a particular tleller (often the Native informant credited by a particular anthro recording the tales). The illustrations are small cartoon-style pastels. The animals are not depicted as wearing clothing, but they are anthromorphized (as th tales require). I have very mixed feelings about all of Masyo's children's Native tales series. I don't like this kind of babytalk writing in any books for children. When you reduce a children's storyteller's stories to writing, they look crude and babyish, though this is not typically true of Native storytellers, who do not cater to limited wordcounts, short sentences and othr EZ READ devices, but build children's vocabularies and stretch their minds with complexities and ambiguities. All of that is missing from all of Mayo's retellings-for-children. OIn the positive side, the baby-talk literary style and sound effects are well suited to the white storyteller's mode, at least to the modes some of them follow (elementary teachers in particular) who have not much feel for literature of any kind and don't do much adult reading. Such people will like Mayo's stories, presented in childish form. Generally, the actual Native sources (which she gives at the end of these books) will be found to embody the usual native complexities, integrations with living cultures and environments, and multiple levels of meanings which give them their appeal to all ages, not just young children, and which have all been filtered out here. Too, the combination of unrelated legends (except that Rabbit figures in them) from widely different tribes and times into one continuous story guarantees that everything which authenticates their tribal meanings is gone. Reviewed by Paula Giese, ch41
MEET TRICKY COYOTE and THATY TRICKY COYOTE, NATIVE AMERICAN TRICKSTER TALES, retold and illustrated by Gretchen Will Mayo, Walker and Company, 435 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014, (800) AT-WALKER, (212) 307-1764 FAX; simultaneously in Canada, Thomas Allen and Son Ltd, Markham: Ontario; 1992, 1993, 336 pages illustrated, source notes, sources bibliography, and anthro postscript. $13.95. 0-8027-8201-9; Ages 4 - 7
Mayo, an elementary teacher and children's writer-illustrator has a sries of homogenized, retold-in-babytalk Coyote legends which ar part of a "trickster tales" series that also includes some tricky rabbit tales. Thse are all taken from collection sources published by anthros, generally early enough that any copyrights on them have expired (1900 - 1920). The coyot tales are not so homogenized as the Rabbit tales, each story here is confined to a filtering down of one particular Native storyteller's anthro-collected version. The anthro's note at the end of both Coyote tales books says that "Gretchen Will Mayo has taken care to tailor her selections to a young audience and has wisely limited the panoramic perspective that got Coyotre into so much trouble over the generations." Translated from anthro-speak, that means she has dumbed down and culture-sanitized all complexity, ambiguity, and real cultural content right out of these tales. I myself do not think this is a good idea for children's or any other literature. For native stories, it entirely distorts them, a process generally begun by the anthros who collected them, via indifferent translators catering to the odd white men. Reviewed by Paula Giese, ch42
STAR TALES and MORE STAR TALES; NORTH AMERICAN INDIAN STORIES, Retold and illustrated by Gretchen Will Mayo, Walker and Company, 435 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014, (800) AT-WALKER, (212) 307-1764 FAX; simultaneously in Canada, Thomas Allen and Son Ltd, Markham: Ontario; 1987 (hardcover), 1990 (paper), $5.95, 50 pages illustrated, source bibliography, glossary, map; 0-8027-7345-1; 0-8027-7347-8 (More...), Ages 4 - 8
Gretchen Will Mayo, elementary teacher, and children's book illustrator, has done a bettr job retelling these star tales than she has in her trickstr tales series. They are less dumbed down, they usually don't homogenize several tales from different tribes (though she still dos do this whenever it suits her to). The mpas in both books are identical and don't reflct the tribal locations of where story contents of the books come from. Moreover, in the glossaries there are verbal definitions of locations which are not indicated on the maps. Most of these stories relate to various constellations, usually not identical with constellations named in Western culture. The books would be altogether better and more educational if they contained starmaps, marking off the various Native constellations. This would require knowledge Mayo obviously doesn't possess. The sources of these star tales are almost all 19th century, as rcorded (filtered through translators) by early anthros. In this series, the bibliographic notes do not contain any complete cites by means of which originals could be located. Mayo's homogenized versions of these stories seem less dumbed-down and lless in the objectionable babytalk style of the trickster tales. But in comparison to some night-time star tales I've heard told outside, with the glittering skies as backdrop, thy seem poor, thin stuff, and this seems the likely result of mining anthro lore by any non-Indian writer who doesn't have much literary talent. Several of these star stories can be directly compared to versions in print -- generally by small, hard-to-find publishers. For example, the Iroquois tale of how the Pleiades came into existence is told by Tehanatorens (Mohawk elder and storytller Ray Fadden) at much greater length, with great literary flourish and detail, and beautiful authentic illustrations by his artist son, Kahiones (John Fadden), and for several others where direct non-anthro-sourced comparisons are possible the Native version is in every sense preferable, not just fgor "authenticity" but for quality -- better stories, better told, better illustrated. The black and white wash illustrations are unattractive, often poorly reproduced, un-Indian in style and concept and generally unattractive, especially for children's books. Reviewed by Paula Giese, ch43
EARTHMAKER'S TALES and MORE EARTHMAKER'S TALES, NORTH AMERICAN INDIAN STORIES. retold and illustrated by Gretchen Will Mayo, Walker and Company, 435 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014, (800) AT-WALKER, (212) 307-1764 FAX; simultaneously in Canada, Thomas Allen and Son Ltd, Markham: Ontario; 1989 (hardcover), 1990 (paper), $5.95, 48 pages illustrated, source bibliography, glossary, map; 0-8027-7343-15 0-8027-7344-3 (More...); Ags 4 - 8
Gretchen Will Mayo, elementary teacher, and children's book illustrator, has done a better job retelling these nature legends than she did with the retold, homogenized trickster tales. There are fewer tales homogeized from several different -- quite different -- tribal sources, and the literary style is less dumbed down than with the trickster tales. However, these nature stories (in general legendary explanations of various natural phenomena) ar retold from 19th and early 20th century anthro or folkloric collections and really don't have much life or vividness. in comparison with living stories still told, culturally alive, by actual native storytellers. The illustrations are black and white wash, not very attractive m(especially for children's books) and in some cases unclear. The maps are identical in both books and only in a general way indicate locations of the tribes from whom the stories were taken. She feels it necessary to define geographical locations such as Cascade Range, Mississippi River, Pike's Peak in the glossary, but these are not indicated on her map frontispiece. It is truly bewildering that the glossary defines such terms as "coal -- a black mineral which burns and is used for fuel" (not by Natives it wasn't), fog, rainbow, blizzard, sleet, mosquito, swan, tornado, warrior, wolf. Is it really true that the majority white kids and their teachers and parents are so dumb as to need such definitions? I'd say if they are, these little glossaries aren't going to be of any help to them, because they're just too dumb and out of it. On the other hand, no pronunciation guides are given -- and it is doubtful that Mayo could do so, since she isn't in contact with any Native language-speakers -- for any Native names or words used in the stories. Reviewed by Paula Giese, ch44
THE FLAME OF PEACE: A TALE OF THE AZTECS, by Deborah Nourse Lattimore, illustrated by the author. Harpercollins: NYC. Library ISBN: 0-06-023709-0 $14.89 ($19.89 Can.) ; Trophy ISBN: 0-06-443272-6 $5.95 ($7.95 Can.) Ages 6 - 9
The tale of Two Flint, an Aztec boy who seeks new fire for the temples of Tenochtitlan. Done in the Aztec mode of pictorial representation, the intensely colorful illustrations stun the eye and demand interpretation. An enlightening and satisfying experience that enlarges understanding and appreciation of the Aztec world." --School Library Journal
GRANDFATHER BEAR: A STORY TOLD IN CREE, Madeline Davis, Sr., Illustrated by Donna Cameron. Translated by Della Owens and Harriet Landry. Moberly Lake: Twin Sisters Publishing Co. 42p. ISBN 0-9696509-2-2pa. CCIP. DDC 398.2'09711'0452974446. (Ages 6-10)
According to the foreword, the Cree people believe that each person has a special purpose on earth, and that some of us are given nature spirit power from "our animal brothers or other nature relatives--such as the cloud people." This book tells the story of a young girl who is taken from her family to live with her Grandfather Bear for a year, so that she can receive his powers and learn his healing ways. Her parents look for her desperately throughout the year, and refuse to leave the camp where they lost her. Finally, Grandfather Bear decides she has learned enough, and allows her father to find them, sacrificing himself in the process so that the family will have meat.
Grandfather Bear is a translation of an oral Cree legend told by Madeline Davis, Sr., a resident of Moberly Lake, B.C. This project is significant in a number of ways: the author, editorial team, translators, and illustrator are all women with strong ties to the Native community in Moberly Lake; it is one of the first books published by Twin Sisters, a new publishing company devoted to that community; the protagonist of the story is a young woman who is given, and accepts, power that she can put to use for her people; and, finally, it's a darn good book! Davis's simple folk tale resonates with magic and meaningful symbolism. Grandfather Bear has a magic glove that he throws between his underground tipi and the outside world for security. When he dies, he orders that his hands and wrists be cut from his body, with the left hand (the one with healing power) to be hung on a tree away from the body. As he teaches the girl, everything they need--the powers, strength, and even food--flows into them from the outside world. The language used to describe Grandfather Bear's act of self-sacrifice is reminiscent of biblical language describing the resurrection of Christ: "He told the young girl not to worry about him being killed. He would be back in four days. He would be alive again." The story, a metaphor for self-sacrifice for the good of the people, demonstrates the importance of balance with, and connection to, nature and its forces.
Cameron's black-and-white drawings are clear and moving; the cover illustration of an old man's face inside a bear inside a bear paw print is especially powerful. Highly recommended. Reviewed by Kelly L. Green Kelly L. Green, from the web page Canadian Children's Literature, March 1996 selection
GLUSKABE AND THE FOUR WISHES, retold by Joseph Bruchac, illustrated by Christine Nyburg Shrader. Cobblehill Books, 375 Hudson St., N.Y., NY 10014, (800) 331-4624, FAX: (212) 366-2666. Illustrated. 32 pp., $14.99 cloth. 1-525-65164-0
Gluskabe, helper of the Great Spirit and revered by the Wabanaki peoples of New England, which includes Bruchac's Western Abenaki, grants one wish each to four visitors of his remote island: one wants many fine possessions, another desires great height, a third wishes for long life, and the last requests the ability to provide for his family by being a good hunter. Each of the four is given a pouch, to be opened only upon their arrival at home. The three who wanted things for themselves can't wait, and peek into their pouches with disastrous results. The fourth waits, and is told how to hunt by the animals themselves. The virtues of forbearance, modesty, and charity are dramatically exemplified in this pleasing folktale, though Shrader's oil illustrations are bleak and murky. Grade: A-. Reviewed by: Steve Brock
Books by Joseph Bruchac available from Amazon.com.
The First Americans : Tribes of North America / Jane Werner Watson. New York : Pantheon, 1980. (Grades K-3)
A very easy-to-read and understandable book which introduces the major NativeAmerican regional groups: plains, woodlands, Inuit, northwest andsouthwest. The short glimpses into each of the groups is handled by providing factual information about dwellings, duties of adults and children, and respect for religious rites and ceremonies. Illustrated with pen and ink sketches. Reviewed by Lisa Mitten and Naomi Caldwell-Wood
GIVING THANKS: A NATIVE AMERICAN GOOD MORNING MESSAGE, written by Chief Jake Swamp, illustrated by Erwin Printup, Jr. Lee and Low Books, 95 Madison Ave., N.Y., NY 10016, (800) 621-1115, (212) 213- 6435 FAX. Illustrated. 24 pp., $14.95 cloth. 1-880000-15-6, Ages 2 - 4
Members of the Iroquois (also known as Haudenosaunee or Six Nations) of upstate New York and Canada start each day with a prayer of respect, appreciation, and thanks: for life, abundant natural resources, food, birds and animals, the Four Winds, the weather, the sun, moon, and stars, the spirit protectors, and the Great Spirit. These words are repeated here with warm, inviting illustrations that suitably express the respect that Indians feel for all life. This is a book to savor and share. Grade: A. Reviewed by Steve Brock
IN A CIRCLE LONG AGO: A TREASURY OF NATIVE LORE FROM NORTH AMERICA, retold by Nancy Van Laan, illustrated by Lisa Desimini. Knopf/Apple Soup, 201 E. 50th St., N.Y., NY 10022, (800) 638-6460, (212) 572-2593 FAX. Illustrated, appendix, source notes, references. 128 pp., $20.00 cloth. 0-679-85807-5. Ages 3 - 7
These twenty-five stories, poems, and songs have been gathered from over twenty tribes. The geographically-grouped stories encourage respect for the natural world ("How Beaver Stole Fire"), caution against vanity ("How Possum Got His Skinny Tail"), and provide humorous accounts of how animals relate with one another ("Coyote and the Blackbirds"), while the songs celebrate family ("A Story") and provide comfort ("Father is Coming"). This will be a much- requested read-aloud that will be passed around many family circles. Grade: A-. Reviewed by Steve Brock
THE STAR MAIDEN by Barbara Juster Esbensen, illustrated by Helen K. Davie. Little, Brown and Company, 34 Beacon St., Boston, MA 02154, (800) 759-0190, (617) 890-0875 FAX. Illustrated. 32 pp., $5.95 paper. 0-316-24955-6. Ages 4 - 8
In this sensitive Ojibway (also known as Chippewa or Anishnabe) myth, members of an Indian tribe are transfixed as a star moves close to the Earth. The star appears in the dream of a brave as a silver maiden who says she is lonely and wants to live among the people of the tribe. The tribal council decides to welcome the star. She searches for the best place to take up residence and settles, with her star sisters, into water lilies. The dreamy watercolors and reassuring text make this a suitable bedtime story, sending children on their own search among the stars while firmly anchored in the hearts of their parents. Grade: A. An interactive "Star Maiden" program is also available on a Macintosh disk, teaching word recognition, rhyming, comprehension, and spelling. Reviewed by Steve Brock
THE STORY OF THE MILKY WAY: A CHEROKEE TALE by Joseph Bruchac. Dial Books for Young Readers, 375 Hudson St., N.Y., NY 10014, (212) 366-2000, (212) 366-2666 FAX. Illustrated, author's notes. 32 pp., $14.99 cloth. 0-8037-1737-7. Ages 4 - 8
"This is what the old people told me when I was a child"
When the world was new, there were few stars in the sky and corn was the staple of the Cherokee people. One morning, an elderly couple discover that a giant spirit dog has been eating their cornmeal during the night. The next time he appears, the people jump out from hiding, beating drums and shaking rattles, and chase the dog into the sky. As he flies away, cornmeal drops from his mouth and becomes the stars of the Milky Way, called Gil'liutsun stanun'yi, or "the place where the dog ran" in Cherokee. As are most Native American folktales, this story is full of enchantment and guidance at the same time. Stroud's acrylic illustrations leave little distinction between individuals other than hair color, but her spirit dog is a forceful apparition. Grade: B+. Reviewed by Steve Brock
Books by Joseph Bruchac available from Amazon.com.
THE SAME SUN WAS IN THE SKY by Denise Webb, illustrated by Walter Porter. Northland Publishing, P.O. Box 1389, Flagstaff, AZ 86002- 1389, (800) 346-3257, (800) 257-9082 FAX. Northland also has a line of southwestern design T-shirts and other gifts. Illustrated, author's note. 32 pp., $14.95 cloth. 0-87358-602-6, Ages 5 - 9
A young boy and his grandfather hike to an area in southern Arizona where Hohokam Indians once lived centuries before. As the two gaze at petroglyphs in the rocks, the grandfather tells of the Ancient Ones and the boy imagines Hohokam children pounding pictures into the rocks, harvesting fruit from the saguaro cactus, and chasing a lizard, both events occurring under the same sun. The glowing watercolor illustrations in brown, yellow, and purple dramatically depict life on the desert. Grade: B+. Reviewd by Steve Brock
ATARIBA AND NIGUAYONA, Consuelo Mendez. San Francisco : Children's Book Press, 1988. (Grades 1-3).
One of this publisher's bilingual Fifth World Tales, this is a retelling of a Taino Indian tale from Puerto Rico. All titles in this series are highly recommended. Reviewed by Lisa Mitten and Naomi Caldwell-Wood
HOUSES OF BARK, Bonnie Shemie. Montreal : Tundra Books, 1990. (Grades 3-5)
Well-illustrated survey of traditional house types of the northeast. However, the final illustration unaccountably shows a Plains girl working on a piece of bark, for some reason. Reviewed by Lisa Mitten and Naomi Caldwell-Wood
COYOTE AND LITTLE TURTLE: A TRADITIONAL HOPI TALE, told by Hershel Talashoema, translated and edited by Emory Sekaquaptewa and Barbara Pepper, illustrated by Hopi children. Illustrated (90 drawings), glossaries, grammar section. 95 pp., $14.95 cloth (0-940666-84-7), $9.95 paper (0-940666-85-5). Ages 6-10
COYOTE AND THE WINNOWING BIRDS: A TRADITIONAL HOPI TALE, told by Eugene Sekaquaptewa, translated and edited by Emory Sekaquaptewa and Barbara Pepper, illustrated by Hopi children. Illustrated (75 drawings), glossaries, pronunciation section. 100 pp., $14.95 cloth (0-940666-86-7), $9.95 paper (0-940666-87-5). Ages 6-10
Reveiw describes both books
A collaborative effort by several organizations (notably the Institute for the Preservation of the Original Languages of the Americas, the Hopi Tribe Cultural Preservation Office, the Hotevilla-Bacavi Community School, and the University of Arizona's Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology), each of these books tells a story of how coyote is tricked by his own greed. Both are illustrated by Hopi schoolchildren, contain sections on teaching Hopi language and culture, and are perfect for schools, libraries, or to commemorate a visit to the Hopi reservation or the Southwest in general. Grade for both: an enthusiastic A+. Reviewed by Steve Brock
HOW TURTLE'S BACK WAS CRACKED: A TRADITIONAL CHEROKEE TALE, retold by Gayle Ross, paintings by Murv Jacob. Dial Books for Young Readers, 375 Hudson St., N.Y., NY 10014, (212) 366-2000, (212) 366-2666 FAX. Illustrated, afterword. 32 pp., $14.99 cloth. 0- 8037-1728-8
Long ago, turtle's shell was smooth. Always bragging that he was a great hunter, one day he takes credit for the act of another (possum killed the greedy coyote), and the wolves decide to teach him a lesson. Jacob's intricate and impressionistic acrylics (a curlicue sky, animals that wear breechcloths) lend an air of mystery and tension to the story, which teaches the folly of bragging, greed, and taking credit for the accomplishments of another. Includes an afterword on the Cherokee Nation. Grade: A-.Reviewed by: Steve Brock
WHY THERE IS NO ARGUING IN HEAVEN: A MAYAN MYTH, by Deborah Nourse Lattimore, illustrated by author. Harpercollins: NY, Library ISBN: 0-06-023718-X $14.89 ($19.89 Can.)
The creator god, having made the world, wishes for beings who are capable of worshipping the gods. Three gods compete in this task but the Maize God succeeds in forming people who kneel to worship their creators. Lattimore shapes this Mayan creation myth into a strikingly illustrated narrative that is entertaining and instructive. Fine work. --Kirkus Reviews
PEOPLE OF CORN: A MAYAN STORY, written by Mary-Joan Gerson, illustrated by Carla Golembe. Little, Brown and Company, 34 Beacon St., Boston, MA 02154, (800) 759-0190, (617) 890-0875 FAX. Illustrated, author's note. 32 pp., $15.95 cloth. 0-316-30854-4. Ages 4 - 8
A Mayan creation myth, this tale from Guatemala relates the Maya affinity for corn, which is the spirit of life. In the beginning, Plumed Serpent and Heart of Sky create humans from sacred corn, and to this day they celebrate the event with each harvest, as related in the Popol Vuh. Though "People of Corn" contains rather simplistic and flat gouache paintings, the spiritual message shines right through. Grade: B. Reviewed by Steve Brock
Corn is Maize, by Akhi, book for children 4-8 yrs. old about how Native women thousands of years ago cross-bred corn from weedy seed plants and hardy grasses. Can be ordered on-line from Shen's Bookstore, which specializes in multicultural children's books.
FORBIDDEN TALENT, story and illustrations by Redwing T. Nez, as told to Kathryn Wilder. Northland Publishing, P.O. Box 1389, Flagstaff, AZ 86002-1389, (800) 346-3257, (800) 257-9082 FAX. Northland also has a line of southwestern design T-shirts and other gifts. Illustrated. 32 pp., $14.95 cloth. 0-87358-605-0, Ages 7 - 12
With so much emphasis on teaching art skills at an early age, non- Indian children will be confused when they read about Ashkii, a Navajo boy who is told by his Grandfather to stop painting because it is not the Navajo way. Ashkii, however, needs an artistic outlet, so he paints stripes on a horse with clay, brands the sheep with paint, and chips designs into the water tank with a rock. Unable to keep his disobedience to himself, he confesses to his Grandfather what he has done and is told that to the Navajo, every work of art serves a purpose and must be used wisely. Nez's oils are warm, beckoning, and make this a beautiful book, but they don't clear up the story's perplexities, such as whether Ashkii's misdeeds caused his Grandfather to begin working on a painting. While "Forbidden Talent" doesn't efficiently cross cultures, the book, with a little explanation, will be readily understood and accepted by Indian children. Grade: for non-Indian children: B-, for Indian children: A-. Reviewed by Steve Brock
THE NIGHT THE GRANDFATHERS DANCED, written by Linda Theresa Raczek, illustrated by Katalin Olah Ehling. Northland Publishing, P.O. Box 1389, Flagstaff, AZ 86002-1389, (800) 346-3257, (800) 257-9082 FAX. Northland also has a line of southwestern design T-shirts and other gifts. Illustrated, author's note. 32 pp., $14.95 cloth. 0- 87358-610-7. Ages 7 - 10
This Ute Mountain Ute tale is told from the perspective of Autumn Eyetoo, who is to dance in her first Bear Dance. She wears her finest clothes and a ceremonial shawl, but she can't find a partner. When she approaches, all the boys her age run away. On a dare, she approaches a group of elders and swishes her shawl to brush one, the Ute way of asking him to dance with her. The absorbing story, accompanied by Ehling's harmonious batik illustrations in yellows and greens, marks a promising debut for both author and illustrator. Grade: A-. Reviewed by Steve Brock
THE RAINBOW BRIDGE by Audrey Wood, paintings by Robert Florczak. Harcourt Brace & Company, 525 B Street, Suite 1900, San Diego, CA 92101, (800) 543-1918, FAX: (800) 235-0256. Illustrated. 32 pp., $16.00 cloth. 0-15-265475-5 Ages 6 - 10
Wood retells the Chumash creation myth, as well as one of the tribe's most beloved legends. According to the oral tradition, the tribe, which lives along the south-central California coast, came into existence when the goddess Hutash planted seeds on an island called Limuw (now known as Santa Cruz Island off the coast of Santa Barbara) and instead of plants, humans grew out of the ground. In the legend from which the book obtains its title, the island becomes crowded and Hutash creates a rainbow linking the island with the mainland. Many Indians walk over it, but several fall into the ocean and are turned into dolphins. The stories are skillfully told and illustrated with vibrant oils, but when Wood brings the tribe up to date in her preface, there is no mention of their frustrating quest for official recognition from the federal government, which could have helped their cause. Grade: B+. Reviewed by Steve Brock
YOUNG GOAT'S DISCOVERY, written and illustrated by Arline Warner Tinus. Red Crane Books, 2008-B Rosina St., Santa Fe, NM 87505, (800) 922-3392, (505) 989-7476 FAX. Illustrated. 32 pp., $13.95 cloth. 1-878610-38-4
A young goat finds its likeness drawn on a rock wall and leads Jeffrey to the spot. Interested in how the petroglyph got there, Jeffrey goes to the library and finds out that the Hopi drew it many, many years ago. He also learns how the Hopi lived, their ceremonies, and that the petroglyphs probably were drawn to insure a good hunt. The librarian suggests to Jeffrey and other children that there is much they can do to celebrate the carvings without touching them. Tinus's watercolor illustrations skillfully render wispy clouds that change in an instant and red rocks that hold secrets for ages. Grade: A. Reviewed by: Steve Brock
SONGS ARE THOUGHTS: POEMS OF THE INUIT by Neil Philip, illustrated by Maryclare Foa. Orchard Books, 95 Madison Ave., N.Y., NY 10016, (800) 621-1115, (212) 213-6435 FAX. Illustrated. 32 pp., $15.95 cloth. 0-531-06893-5
The Inuit of northern Canada react to their harsh and frigid environment by writing compact songs that express their deep-seated emotions, ranging from joy to grief. Folklorist Philip presents ten Inuit poems that stress these feelings, including a morning prayer, hunting a polar bear, and avoiding evil with quietude. Foa's debut as an illustrator is also worth celebrating. Her textured oils and etched canvasses are stimulating to the senses. Grade: A. Reviewed by: Steve Brock
THE TLINGIT, Alice Osinski. Chicago : Children's Press, 1990. (Grades 1-3).
An entry in the New True series on American Indian tribes. Like the other titles in this series, these are superb introductions to the histories and cultures of the different peoples they treat. Of particular value is the care taken in each book to positively show each tribe and its people and culture as survivors in the late 20th century. These books are well illustrated with photographs whenever available, avoiding the often culturally loaded images present in reproductions of paintings and drawings. Reviewed by Lisa Mitten and Naomi Caldwell-Wood
CROW AND HAWK, written by Michael Rosen, illustrated by John Clementson. Harcourt Brace & Company, 525 B Street, Suite 1900, San Diego, CA 92101, (800) 543-1918, (800) 235-0256 FAX. Illus trated. 32 pp., $15.00 cloth. 0-15-200257-X
In this Pueblo Indian tale that parallels the Baby Jessica adoption case, Crow lays her eggs in a nest, tires of constantly sitting on it, and flies off. Hawk finds the eggs and decides to sit on "these poor little eggs" herself. They hatch, and Hawk rears the baby crows as her own. Later, Crow returns and wants the babies back, since she laid the eggs. Hawk replies that she sat on the eggs and fed and raised the hatchlings, so they do not belong to Crow anymore. Crow goes to Eagle, king of the birds, and is told that since she left the nest, she has "lost the children." It's hard to imagine this story being a Pueblo tale, since all of the traditional elements have been stripped away and the story reads like a newspaper report. This blandness also extends to Clementson's paper collages, which he attempts to frame with an extremely unoriginal Indian pattern. There are only a few white authors who have been successful at retelling Native American stories, and Rosen fails miserably. Though the story may or may not be authentic, his lack of feeling in telling it is quite evident. Grade: C-. Reviewed by Steve Brock
HOW THUNDER AND LIGHTNING CAME TO BE, retold by Beatrice Orcutt Harrell with collages by Susan L. Roth. Dial Books for Young Readers, 375 Hudson St., N.Y., NY 10014, (212) 366-2000, (212) 366-2666 FAX. Illustrated, author's note. 32 pp., $14.99 cloth. 0-8037-1748-2
In her first published book, Choctaw writer Harrell tells the story of two foolish birds (one is big and slow, the other small and fast but clumsy) who are told by the Sun Father to warn his people about approaching weather disturbances. First, one leans out of the clouds and yells loudly. Next, they try running from village to village. The solution, of course, comes by accident, and the Sun Father is pleased at the birds inventiveness. The story is virtually taken-over, however, by Roth's vibrant collages - especially the bright, crackling lightning. I'm looking forward to more from this team. Grade: A-. Reviewed by Steve Brock
DID YOU HEAR THE WIND SING YOUR NAME?: AN ONEIDA SONG OF SPRING by Sandra De Coteau Orie, illustrated by Christopher Canyon. Walker and Company, 435 Hudson St., N.Y., NY 10014, (800) AT-WALKER, (212) 307-1764 FAX. Illustrated. 32 pp., $14.95 cloth. 0-8027-8351-1
Oneida author Orie asks children to share in the signs of Spring's rebirth - the warmth of the sun, the smell of cedar, the taste of thunder, the sight of the bright orange sunset. While some of the questions should be confusing, such as "Did you see Trillium's Stars lying upon the Forest bed's heaven," they are, instead, strangely reassuring. The double-page illustrations by Canyon, a Cherokee, are outstanding. Grade: A-. Reviewed by Steve Brock
PIMA INDIAN LEGENDS by Anna Moore Shaw. University of Arizona Press, 1230 N. Park, #102, Tucson, AZ 85719. Illustrated. 111 pp., $9.95 paper. 0-8165-0186-6
In this reissue of the 1968 original edition, Shaw retells twenty-four stories that she began collecting from her relatives in the 1930s. While many who claim to be preserving Native American folklore do so in an academic setting which frequently saps their life, Shaw's tales abound with vitality and humor.
Beginning with the Pima creation myths of the great flood of the Gila River and the making of the images of the Pimas by Elder Brother (Se-eh-ha) and the Apache by Coyote, Shaw relates how (and why) the Hohokam Great House was built on the banks of the Gila River at Casa Grande, the fight between the Yumas and Pimas, and the touching tale of Meteor and Morning Star. My favorite folk-hero is the coyote - the trickster who can send you down the path to wisdom or just as easily fool you into thinking you matter to the world. At least half of these stories involve coyote, either playing tricks (such as getting the Bear People to have a victory celebration after a fight, not knowing that they had killed their brothers) or being tricked himself (as when he is instructed not to look at his beautiful blue coat. When he does, he falls in the sand and it sticks to him).
"Pima Indian Legends" is perfect for reading aloud tochildren, and is highly recommended. Reviewed by Steve Brock
FIRE RACE: A KARUK COYOTE TALE, retold by Jonathan London,illustrated by Sylvia Long. Chronicle Books, 275 Fifth St., San Francisco, CA 94103. Children's story for all ages. Illustrated, bibliography, afterword. 40 pp., $13.95 cloth. 0-8118-0241
The literature says that this book is for ages 4-8, but I am putting it in the "all ages" category because this book just knocksme out! A long time ago, only the three Yellow Jacket sisters had fire. Even though other animals froze, the fire was kept from them. Wise Old Coyote, however, devises a plan to steal the fire,and enlists the other animals to help. Coyote diverts the yellow jackets, seizes a burning stick, and runs away. As the yellow jackets chase him, he hands it off to Eagle, who hands it to Mountain Lion. Several hand-offs later, Frog hides a hot coal in his mouth on a river bottom, and the yellow jackets give up. When Frog spits the coal out, Willow Tree swallows it, and Coyote shows the animals how to extract it: by rubbing two sticks together over dry moss. Now that the animals have fire, each night they gather in a circle while the elders tell stories. An meaningful tale which stresses the importance of the natural world and our need to live cooperatively with it. Splendidly detailed watercolors embellish this fascinating tale. This is one of the best children's books of 1993. Reviewed by: Steve Brock
RAVEN: A TRICKSTER TALE FROM THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST, written and illustrated by Gerald McDermott. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers, 111 Fifth Ave., N.Y., NY 10003, (800) 543-1918. For ages 4-8. Illustrated. 32 pp., $14.95 cloth. 0-15-265661-8.
Before Raven came, the earth was dark and cold. When he saw people living without shadows, he began a search for light. He finds it at the house of Sky Chief, who does not want to share it. Raven changes himself into a pine needle and floats down into the water that Sky Chief's daughter is drinking. In her stomach, he turns into a baby, to Sky Chief's delight. When the baby asks for and receives the shiny ball in the box, he turns back into Raven and flies into the sky, placing the ball where all may enjoy it. That is why Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest feed the raven. A magical tale, brilliantly illustrated with designs of the Pacific Northwest. Highly recommended. Reviewed by: Steve Brock
THE BOY WHO LIVED WITH THE SEALS by Rafe Martin, illustrated byDavid Shannon. G. P. Putnam's Sons, 200 Madison Ave., N.Y., NY 10016, (800) 847-5515. For ages 4-8. Illustrated. 32 pp., $14.95 cloth. 0-399-22556-0
In this Chinook legend, a small boy disappears from his tribe, with no trace. With heavy hearts, the tribe is forced to abandon the search and move to their spring camp. When the tribe encounters another clan, an elder tells them of an island where seals lie on the rocks. A boy was seen with them. Several tribal members set out in their canoes and bring him back, to the delight of his parents. He must relearn how to live as a human. As he learns how to eat and walk, he shows proficiency at carving canoes and making bows and arrows. When the family goes fishing, however, the seals swim up and call to the boy, who finally jumps into the water and swims off. Saddened, his parents throw him the box containing his carving tools. Every year after the parting, the parents find a new and beautiful canoe waiting for them. The somber and shadowy watercolor illustrations bolster this powerful, painful, but reassuring, story. Adapted for children from Jarold Ramsey's "Coyote Was Going There," the book is highly recommended. Reviewd by Steve Brock
THE TREES STAND SHINING: POETRY OF THE NORTH AMERICAN INDIANS, selected by Hettie Jones, illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker. Dial Books, 375 Hudson St., N.Y., NY 10014, (212) 366-2000, (212)366-2666 FAX. Children's book for all ages. Illustrated. 32 pp. $13.99 cloth. 0-8037-9083-X
As Jones says in this reissue of the 1971 original, these are not really poems, but songs of all types which run the spectrum of feelings and moods. The book begins with songs to the sun and animals, then moves to prayers, chants, stories, shouts ("Hu-ka-he!"), and cries of anguish as their families are killed. Prophetically, the book ends with "I will live." The remarkable watercolor paintings make the message more powerful. Highly recommended. Reviewd by Steve Brock
Webmistress --Paula Giese. Text and graphics copyright 1996
CREDITS: The eagle started life as a real golden eagle photographed as he was being released from the Minnesota Raptor Center, much worked over with graphics utilities for the iridescent abalone-shell wing effect.
Last Updated: Tuesday, April 30, 1996 - 3:24:10 AM