Children's Books

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

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

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