________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 13 . . . . November 27, 2015


Keepers of the Animals: Native American Stories and Wildlife Activities for Children.

Michael J. Caduto & Joseph Bruchac. Story illustrations by John Kahionhes Fadden & David Kanietakeron Fadden. Chapter illustrations by D.D. Tyler & Carol Wood.
Golden, CO: Fulcrum Publishing (Distributed in Canada by Codasat), 1997.
266 pp., trade pbk., $21.95.
ISBN 978-1-55591-386-1.

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

Parents, caregivers and teachers of grades 1-6.

Review by Suzanne Pierson.

** /4



Taking Your Children Outdoors
Waves tumble over sands; wind rushes through pine boughs; flowers scent the breeze over a field; a pungent smell wafts from the pavement near a vacant lot after a rain – these and more are waiting to be experienced outdoors. There is adventure in the unknown, and even the familiar looks different when it is visited with the intent of discovering what has been looked at and not yet seen, heard yet never listened to.

There is a separate teachers' guide for this book which I have not reviewed. On its own, Keepers of the Animals will be a useful resource for storytellers wanting to increase their repertoire of Native North American stories.

      "Part I: A Guide for Using and Enjoying This Book" includes sections on "Telling the Stories", "Leading the Guided Fantasies", "Performing the Puppet Shows", Conducting the Activities", "Taking Your Children Outdoors", "Classifying and Identifying Animals", and "Catching Animals and Caring for Them in Captivity". The authors do recommend that children capture animals with a photograph or illustration, but they also include suggestions for catching and keeping animals for short periods of time.

      Parents or group leaders may find the suggestions in this section helpful, but teachers will find them less useful. For example, in "Conducting the Field Trip (With Special Tips for Larger Groups), there is an entire word-for-word script given for the start of the excursion, including a response from the children. "'No!' they respond, laughing."

      I hope the students know their lines, or things could go badly from then on.

      "Part II: Native American Animal Stories and Wildlife Activities" includes stories, discussion ideas, questions, activities, and suggestions for extending the experience. Part II is subdivided into a number of themes, including "Creation", "Celebration", "Vision", "Feathers and Fur, Scales and Skin", and "Survival". The last theme includes a story, "The Gift of the Whale", from the Inuit-Inupiaq of the Arctic.

      The main value of "Keepers of the Animals" is the collection of stories from many different native tribes. If you are storyteller or leader looking for wildlife activities for school-age children, you may find this volume useful.

      However, Keepers of the Animals has a couple of weaknesses that lessen its value, especially for trained teachers. The first weakness is that it contains too much information. There is an excellent General Index, and an Index of Activities by Subject. Both will be very helpful. However, it seems unnecessary to include so much information in each Discussion section. In the Discussion for the story "Octopus and Raven", do I really need to know that "[w]hile snails fertilize their eggs internally before depositing them on the bottom, bivalves release both eggs and sperm directly into the water where fertilization occurs"? This book contains 24 stories, most of which are one to two pages long. But the book is 266 pages long. It would be much more user friendly if it contained less extraneous material.

      The second weakness of this book is that some of the information and references are outdated. The copyright is 1991, 1997. Although the majority of the information hasn't changed in the last 24 years, some information needs to be updated, particularly in the references to threatened and endangered species of animals.

In 1989 there were forty-four species of animals designated as threatened or endangered in Canada.

      Included in the list of endangered species is the peregrine falcon. Although the peregrine was endangered in the 1970s, the species has recovered since the banning of DDT and is no longer endangered.

Since merely 1.7 million of Earth's approximately 30 million life-forms have been described to date, hundred of thousands may disappear by the year 2000 before we even knew they existed.

      At the moment, this reference is 15 years out-of-date and aging.

      If you are looking for a collection of native stories from what is now Canada and the United States, Keepers of the Animals: Native American Stories and Wildlife Activities for Children may have value to you. Storytellers and group leaders may find the resource material helpful if you have time to sort through the extraneous material.

      It is hard not to recommend a book that combines a lyrical writing style with a treasure trove of information about nature but I recommend Keepers of the Animals: Native American Stories and Wildlife Activities for Children with reservations. Too much information aimed at too small an audience limits the value. If you have time to spend with this material, it may be worth the investment, but I hope there is more up-to-date and more user-friendly material available today.

Recommended with Reservations.

Dr. Suzanne Pierson is a retired teacher-librarian, currently instructing Librarianship courses at Queen's University in Kingston, ON.

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

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