Children's Books

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. Moreovr, 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 star maps, marking off the various Native constellations. This would require klowledge 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

File: ch43

Purchase Star Tales now from

Purchase More Star Tales now from
Your book purchases support this web site.


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

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