Children's Books

MEET TRICKY COYOTE and THAT 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 series 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. Cultural distortions asdide, the prose is condescending, of th type that an untalented children's writer inflicts on books for young children. Bad books. Reviewed by Paula Giese

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Native American BOOKS, text and graphics copyright Paula Giese, 1996

Last Updated: Friday, March 15, 1996 - 5:22:42 AM