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C.J. Taylor
Montreal, Tundra Books, 1993. 32pp, galley, $17.95
ISBN 0-88776-302-2. Distributed by University of Toronto Press.

Grades 3 and up/Ages 8 and up

Reviewed by Kay Kerman.

Volume 21 Number 3
1993 May

Taylor has created another impressive book of Native myths and legends. This book contains nine Native stories that describe the origins of various animals and natural phenomena, e.g., tornadoes, Niagara Falls. It is a valuable book to add to any library of Native literature.

These nine stories explain how the first inhabitants "saw" North America. For example, C.J. Taylor explains why the dog is our best friend and how the islands off the northwest Pacific coast came to be, and gives a very funny explanation of how the owl and rabbit came to look the way they do.

In the story "How Horses Came into the World," Taylor describes the sadness of Stone Cloud, a little orphan boy who is crying at the lakeside because his Blackfoot people do not have enough to eat. The Water Spirit offers him a wish, allowing him to take anything of the water. He is warned by the Water Spirit's son to accept only the oldest mallard duck and its little ones. He receives his gift with the warning that he must not look at it until the sun rises the following morning.

Stone Cloud hears assorted sounds through the night but does not dare to look back at this cherished gift given to him by the Water Spirit. In the morning Stone Cloud is frightened, for he has never seen this type of animal before. A voice tells him not to fear, but to mount it and go back to his people. He explains to his people that this animal will help them hunt and carry loads and will be at ease in the water because it is from it.

This example of a legend demonstrates its simplicity, yet its insight into the richness of a particular native experience.

The illustrations painted by Taylor are a dramatic contribution that enhances each legend.


Kay Kerman is a Kindergarten and grade 1 teacher at Chelsea Elementary School in Chelsea, Quebec.
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