CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 5 . . . .October 27, 2006
All the Stars in the Sky.
Toronto, ON: Tundra, 2006.
40 pp., cloth, $22.99.
Indians of North America-Juvenile fiction.
Children’s stories, Canadian (English).
Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11.
Review by Harriet Zaidman.
This tapestry of stories is woven with the wonderment of the skyworld and the mysteries it holds. The ancestors told these tales as a way of explaining the vast and ever-changing night sky. They told them under a twinkling canopy of stars with respect, humor, and an overwhelming sense of awe for the endless powers of the universe. (From the “Afterword.”)
All the Stars in the Sky, C.J. Taylor's eleventh book of Native legends, is a collection of stories from seven different First Nations from different parts of North America. The stories explain the mysteries of the night sky. Together with Taylor’s trademark acrylic paintings, they will educate young readers about traditional tales. They are entertaining and use colloquial language, making them easy for children in the target age group to read on their own.
The First Nations represented are the Salish, Onondaga, Blackfoot, Netsilik (Inuit), Wasco, Ojibwa and Cherokee. The stories are romantic - “Little Mouse and the Magic Circles” is the tale of a hunter who is captivated by the beauty of a star maiden who has come to earth. They are mystical -the constellation Pleides is explained through the Onondaga myth about hungry, dancing children who were lifted into the sky. They are clever, as in “Coyote Creates the Big Dipper,” a Wasco story from the Western Rockies, in which the trickster Coyote hoodwinks other animals to climb into the sky and complete his celestial arrangement.
The leader called out, "Let us sit awhile and watch Bear while we rest." But soon the wolves and the dog fell asleep. Coyote quickly descended the trail, pulling out each arrow as he ran, dropping a few along the way. When he reached the earth he returned to his favorite mountaintop from where he could see the whole universe. His tail curled around the bent arrows. When he looked up into the night sky at the Bear Star, there sat the wolves and their dog, and there they would hunt Bear forever. Turning his head from side to side Coyote said, "I am a wonderful artist, and clever, too!"
They also teach tragic lessons, such as “Old Man Steals Sun's Leggings,” in which Old Man learns painfully to take care about what he wished for.
A highlight of books by C.J. Taylor are her vivid interpretations of the legends she has gathered. A self-taught artist, she combines the dreamscape of the traditional story with her own modern abstract sensibilities. Bright colours, sweeping lines and unusual characters, such as the representation of the star girl in “Little Mouse and the Magic Circles,” make them interesting to study and interpret. The spider in “Grandmother Spider Brings Light” is spooky and fascinating, and the reader senses disaster when Itchy Foot lets his arrow fly in “The Snow Goose.” Each story is accompanied by one painting.
All the Stars in the Sky will fit well into a school or classroom library collection alongside Taylor's other publications. For younger readers, it will serve as a good chapter book. Teachers can use it in units about aboriginal legends, to teach artistic interpretation or as an adjunct to a unit about the stars.
Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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