C.J. Taylor,
All the Stars in the Sky: Native Stories from the Heavens
(Tundra, 2006)

All the Stars in the Sky: Native Stories from the Heavens is a collection of seven stories that reflect the indigenous peoples' awe and fascination with the heavenly bodies.

The natives did not have light pollution to dilute the intensity of the night sky and were much more aware of the sizes, shapes, patterns and movements than the average modern person. Of course, they created stories to explain what they saw.

"Little Mouse & the Magic Circles" is from the Ojibwa. It tells of love between different cultures, loneliness and that "happily ever after" resolution.

"The Snow Goose," from the Salish, shows what happens when humans get arrogant and greedy. It is a sad story of a paradise lost.

"There They Live in Peace," an Onondaga tale, reveals what happens when children misbehave and do not respect their elders. At least it was a "happily -- and undisturbed -- ever after" ending for the old Spirit of the Forest.

"Old Man Steals Sun's Leggings," from the Blackfoot, is my favorite. It reinforces that old adage: "Be careful what you wish for." This is the story that will have children laughing like crazy, especially if you do a bit of improv when you read it.

"Shaman Visits Moon" comes from the Netsilik (Inuit) and tells about the shaman's visit to, and narrow escape from, the moon.

"Coyote Creates the Big Dipper" is a Wasco story of the trickster coyote and how he conned a pack of wolves and their dog into going bear hunting in the sky.

"Grandmother Spider Brings Light," in that fine old Cherokee tradition, explains several things in one tale: why Possum has a bare tail, why Buzzard has a bald head and how Spider gave the gifts of pottery and fire to the people, in addition to bringing them light.

C.J. Taylor is a gifted storyteller whose words bring life and emotion to all characters. She penned these stories with a staccato style -- the style that best fits young children. Her descriptions are vivid and picturesque. Basically, she did everything correctly and with far-above-average quality. She produces children's masterpieces!

Taylor's artwork is breathtaking. It is certain to mesmerize almost any child. The bright colors and extensive use of space combine with intricate details to provide hours of viewing pleasure and plenty of topics for discussion. Her artwork is created for, and totally supports, the scenes in the story being told.

Taylor, a Mohawk, is an artist and children's author who works to bring native culture and history to the children's literature genre. She travels extensively through North America, has organized several Native art exhibitions and has artwork in many private collections. Amazingly, she is a self-taught artist.

If you read to children in any capacity, All the Stars in the Sky is an ideal book. I read "Grandmother Spider Brings Light" for my library's summer reading program, which had a bug theme. The kids loved the story and the artwork and the adults wanted the book. It is top quality in all respects -- a hardback with jacket that will last.

review by
Alicia Karen Elkins

9 January 2009

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