________________ CM . . . . Volume I Number VII . . . . July 28, 1995

Keepers of Life: Discovering Plants through Native Stories and Earth Activities for Children

Michael J. Caduto and Joseph Bruchac
Saskatoon: Fifth House, 1994
265pp, cloth, $25.95
ISBN 1-895618-48-7. CIP

Subject Headings:
Indians of North America-Folklore.
Plant ecology-Study and teaching (Elementary).
Nature study-Activity programs.

Adult -- Grades 1 - 7 / Ages 6 - 12
Review by MaryLynn Gagne

This latest addition to the immensely popular "Keeper" series focusses on our relationship with the plant kingdom. Like its predecessors, Keepers of Life uses Native North American stories and myths from diverse cultural groups to introduce a variety of topics relating to our interactions with the natural world.

The book includes information on plant groups such as fungi and flowering plants, explanations of biological processes such as photosynthesis and pollination, and discussions of environmental concerns such as acid rain and the greenhouse effect. This information-packed resource is imbued with the spirit of "Responsible Stewardship" -- a philosophy of empathy for all living things, and consideration of the effects of our actions on future generations.

The guided discussions and activities which grow almost organically out of the carefully selected "lesson stories" are at the heart of Keepers of Life. Wonderful story illustrations by John Kahionhes Fadden and David Kanietakeron Fadden, and richly detailed chapter illustrations by Marjorie C. Leggit and Carol Wood, illuminate the text. Caduto and Bruchac present a wealth of botanical information and fascinating tidbits in a clear and engaging manner. A very minor quibble: a few of the recommended activities appear somewhat complicated. Step-by-step directions notwithstanding, some classroom teachers may baulk at the prospect of undertaking a project such as "Making Earth on Turtle's Back" which involves construction of a plywood and chicken-wire turtle shell base covered with painted papier-mâché "landforms."

In the introduction to Keepers of Life, and in the "Tips and Techniques" section, the authors provide valuable background information on Native knowledge of plants, the multitudinous uses of plants by Native North Americans, and on the attitude of respect for all life forms pervasive in traditional Native culture. Teachers and group leaders will appreciate the numerous and perceptive hints on bringing the stories to life, involving children in the storytelling process, and planning and adapting the suggested activities. Detailed "how-to" instructions are provided for everything from correct breathing techniques to proper procedures for planting trees and shrubs. A separate teacher's guide is available for this title; the book alone certainly affords more than adequate guidance.

Highly recommended for adults, and for use with children ages 5 to 12.

MaryLynn Gagne is a reference librarian in the Education Library, University of Saskatchewan Libraries.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © 1998 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364