Hold Up the Sky: And Other Native American Tales from Texas and the Southern Plains

Hold Up the Sky: And Other Native American Tales from Texas and the Southern Plains

by Jane Louise Curry, James Watts

Nearly all that remains of some Indian tribes of Texas and the Southern Plains are their stories. Here twenty-six tales are brought together from fourteen tribes and at least five different cultures. They are stories of humor, guidance, and adventure that have been passed down through the generations.

From the Tejas story that explains how the universe began, to


Nearly all that remains of some Indian tribes of Texas and the Southern Plains are their stories. Here twenty-six tales are brought together from fourteen tribes and at least five different cultures. They are stories of humor, guidance, and adventure that have been passed down through the generations.

From the Tejas story that explains how the universe began, to the Lipan Apache tale in which a small lizard smartly outwits a hungry coyote, these stories are sure to delight young readers. Additional information about each tribe is included in the "About the Storytellers" section.

Once again Jane Louise Curry has skillfully retold traditional tales of Native Americans. Hold Up the Sky is in keeping with the style of her previous, highly acclaimed collections of Native American stories, Back in the Beforetime, The Wonderful Sky Boat, and Turtle Island. This, too, is a collection to be treasured.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Jane Louse Curry has collected a wonderful grouping of 26 traditional tales of 14 Native American tribes. As Curry notes about the tales she has chosen, "The tribes of Texas and the Southern Plains have left us a feast of stories from at least five different language families and five distinct cultures. Some were told to teach caution to children, some to mock folly and self-importance, and others to stir fear or wonder or laughter in every heart around the campfire." After this introduction, Curry's choices, ranging from the traditional "beginning of the world" tales to specific stories explaining the importance of certain animals or mythical figures, give readers a strong sense of the cultures from which the stories derive. Readers will also enjoy the humorous exploits of Coyote and other animals in the stories that seem to explain power struggles, how fire and other practical earth elements came to exist, and the relationships between man and animal. The illustrations for the book, while not large in number, do help to sustain the mood or the themes of a number of tales. Curry also provides, at the end of the book, a short history on each of the contributing 14 tribes and an annotated bibliography on each of the storytellers who recorded the tales. Hold Up the Sky should definitely have a place in teacher and school libraries as an important addition to any multicultural collection. 2003, Margaret K. McElderry Books,
— Jean Boreen
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-This collection of 26 Native American tales is similar in format to the author's Back in the Beforetime: Tales of the California Indians (1987), Turtle Island: Tales of the Algonquian Nations (1999), and The Wonderful Sky Boat and Other Native American Tales of the Southeast (2001, all McElderry). In an introduction about the tribes of the area, the author explains that the stories of most of the earliest peoples in the region were lost when their cultures were destroyed by invading European colonists. The Texas farming tribes of the Tonkawan and Caddoan language groups survived to tell their tales to collectors, as did the Comanche, Kiowa, Lipan Apache, and Kiowa-Apache hunters who followed the buffalo from the north and west into the Southern Plains, and the Osage who were forced west by white settlers. As it is in the author's earlier collections, the retellings are simple, straightforward, and often humorous. They vary in length from 2 to 13 pages and include creation legends, pourquoi stories, and trickster tales. Coyote is a major character in many of them, and he is sometimes outwitted by a smaller animal. Many of the stories are accompanied by a full-page, black-and-white drawing. The tribes from which they come are described in short entries in the afterword and "About the Stories" lists Curry's sources. This collection will appeal especially to storytellers searching for new material and to teachers and students of Native American folklore.-Ginny Gustin, Sonoma County Library System, Santa Rosa, CA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Curry (The Egyptian Box, 2002, etc.) has once again produced a stellar collection of Native American tales. Bound by geographical origins, this collection represents tales from 14 tribes and at least five different cultures. The 26 tales are not generally well-known, although some are similar to tales from other tribes. "The Ghost Woman" tells the Kiowa-Apache version of the man who wanders into a tipi that is the burial place of a beautiful woman. She makes herself visible and is allowed to live with him as long as he does not call her "Ghost Woman." Years pass, the couple has a son, and life seems very good. But one day in anger her husband calls her by the forbidden name and she vanishes, as do the husband and the son. In other retellings, this might have been the explanation for the origin of a particular constellation, but not so here. Each of the tales in this collection carries a familiar motif or two but has a variation not widely published. Curry's satisfying retellings are straightforward, with little embellishment, and her end notes concerning the source of each story are interesting and authenticate the collection. Storytellers will value this resource and readers will savor the variety of clever tales. (Folktales. 8-12)

Product Details

Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt


Tejas (Hasinai)

Ayo-Caddi-Aymay, as the Tejas people called God, was the one and only God, and whatever he did turned out for the best. But, said the Tejas, he had help. At the beginning of the First Time, when there was only earth and darkness, Old Man appeared. In his hand he held an acorn, and the acorn opened and grew -- not into an oak tree, but into a magical woman. Old Man wished to make a heaven, and so together he and Acorn Woman put in place a great circle of timber to hold up the sky. The timber circle was so wide that if you looked off toward the west, the dry mountains hid it. To the north, the grass of the rolling prairie hid it. To the south, the far edge of the sea hid it, and to the east it was hidden by the green hills. When the work was finished, Acorn Woman climbed up into the heavens, where every day she still gives new birth to the sun and moon, to rain, frost, and snow, to lightning and thunder, and to the corn.

In the world under the new sky there lived only one woman, and in time she had two daughters. One day when the sisters were out by themselves gathering food, a huge and terrible monster charged out of the bushes, straight at them. "Caddaja!" the girls cried as they turned and ran. "A devil! A demon!" Its red eyes blazed like hot coals, and its horns were so wide that their tips stretched out of sight.

One girl was not quick enough. The caddaja snatched at her, caught her in its claws, gobbled her up, swallowed her down, and looked around for her sister. Her sister had run on until she came to a very tall pine tree. Its faraway top seemed the safest place to hide. She climbed up tothe very tip of the topmost branch, but the giant caddaja sniffed out her path. It lifted up its ugly head and spied the shadow of her shape through the pine boughs. It tried to climb the tree, but fell back.

It tried again and fell back again, for it was too heavy for climbing. It tried with its sharp claws and strong horns to cut down the tree or break it. The tree was strong, but it groaned and whipped back and forth. The girl knew as she clung fast to her branch that the tree could not hold out for long. She looked down.

Below, on one side of the tree, the monster rammed the tree trunk and roared. At the foot ofthe tree on the other side lay a small pond.The girl knew its waters, black and deep. Quickly she unwrapped her legs from the branch, dangled for a moment, held her breath, and dropped straight down. Down, down through the water she went, like an arrow. The angry caddaja ran around the tree and bent to suck up the water. As he sucked, he spewed it away so that he could scoop her up from the bottom. But he did not find her.

She had fooled him. Below ground, a hidden stream fed the pond, and the girl swam along it. She came up far away, where the stream flowed out into the sunshine, and ran home to tell her mother all that had happened. Afterward, she and her mother returned to the place where the sister had died. There, caught in an acorn cup, they found a single drop of blood. They covered it with another acorn cup, and the mother placed it safely in her bosom for the journey home. Once there, she put it in a pottery jar, covered the mouth of the jar, and set it in a corner.

In the night, the mother heard a scratching sound that seemed to come from the jar. She went to look. When she uncovered the jar, she discovered that the drop of blood had grown into a little boy no bigger than her little finger. Startled, she replaced the cover on the jar. The next night she and her daughter heard the same noise. When they sat up in alarm, they saw the jar break, and a full-grown young man step out.

"Grandson!" the mother cried out in joy, and embraced him. "Oh, welcome, son of my daughter!"

The young man looked around. "Where is my mother?" His grandmother and aunt told him of the terrible caddaja, of his mother's death, and of the blood drop in the acorn cup.

"I will find it! I will find that giant demon and kill it!" the Blood-Drop Boy cried out.

So his grandmother made him a bow and an arrow, and the next morning he set out. When at last he found the giant monster, he raised his bow and shot his arrow so deep into it that the monster fled, and was never seen again.

Yet that caddaja was only one of the many that hated all human beings and caused great terror among the first people. When Blood-Drop Boy returned home, his grandmother and aunt told him that a world full of caddajas was so frightening that they wished to leave it. The rest of the men and women and children who had appeared on earth after Grandmother were turning themselves into animal people -- bears, otters, dogs, deer, coyotes -- to escape the hatred of the monsters.

"It is not yet a good world for humans," Grandmother said. "Perhaps one day it will be. But for us, let us go up to Cachao-ayo, the sky above, and watch over the earth from there." So Blood-Drop Boy went up into the heavens with them, and for all the days and years that followed watched over and guided the world below.

Text copyright © 2003 by Jane Louise Curry Illustrations copyright © 2003 by James Watts

Meet the Author

Jane Louise Curry has written more than thirty books for children, her most recent novel being The Egyptian Box. Ms. Curry lives in Lose Angeles, California, and spends a part of each year in London, England. For more information go to www.janelouisecurry.com and www.theblackcanary.com.

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