Created with the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), Tales of the People is a series of children's books celebrating Native American culture with illustrations and stories by Indian artists and writers. In addition to the tales themselves, each book also offers four pages filled with information and photographs exploring various aspects of Native culture, including a glossary of words in different Indian languages.
About the Author
Marty Kreipe de Montaño is manager of the Resource Center of the George Gustav Heye Center, NMAIs Manhattan branch. A member of the Prairie Band Potawatomi from Kansas, she has an M.A. in Ethnohistory of North American Indians from the University of Kansas. Ms. de Montaño, who lives in New York City, is co-author of The Native American Almanac, selected by Choice magazine as one of the Outstanding Academic Books for 1995.
Tom Coffin, who lives in Phoenix, has an extensive background in painting, sculpture, and architectural restoration. A Kansas native and member of the Prairie Band Potawatomi and Creek tribes, Mr. Coffin received a B.F.A. degree in painting and sculpture from the Kansas City Art Institute.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I picked up this book because it was recommended on oyate.org. My primary purpose in choosing this book, though, has nothing to do with the fact that it's a retelling of a Potawatomi story, though that's nice and I'm actually going to talk about it in a minute. I just picked it because it takes place in NYC and there aren't very many picture books that show the city I live in.First things first, let's talk about the story. The barebones of the story are that Coyote goes up to the top of the WTC (I'm sure that originally he went up to the top of something else tall, but this is a retelling!) and falls in love with a star. This is a bit unbelievable, as everybody knows you can't see stars in Manhattan, but let's run with it. He begs the start to dance with him, and she finally caves... but when he sees how much higher he is than he was he frantically begs to be let down. So she lets go, and he lands and makes a huge lake (in this story it's the Reservoir at Central Park).The story is simple enough for kids to get it easily, and the pictures walk that fine line between comic and sympathetic. It really all works together nicely, except for the part about seeing stars in Manhattan, but that's presumably original, and what can you do?Now, I don't know about you, but I always feel slightly awkward when reading stories that purportedly are "traditional" to one group or another that I don't happen to belong to. I don't know if these stories are traditional or not! What if I'm really reading something written by another white American like me who just made it up whole cloth and doesn't know what they're talking about? What if I'm accidentally reinforcing inaccurate or harmful stereotypes because this story is NOTHING AT ALL like what that group ever has said or done, or says or does now? I want to expose my nieces to this whole wide world of diverse cultures, but I don't want to do it wrong - I'd almost rather not bother than to expose them to lies and misunderstandings about other people.But luckily, this book happens to have been written and illustrated by two actual Potawatomi people. This doesn't guarantee quality (though the quality happens to be there), but it does mean that we're a lot less likely to get misconceptions about Potawatomi life/legends. Also, this story is a retelling, placed in modern NYC. Fairy tales are usually set in the past, but when it comes to the European "canon" of fairy tales it's very easy to find retellings in any form you like - including dozens upon dozens set in the modern day. When it comes to the traditional stories of other ethnic groups... not so much. Somehow, those stories in books always seem static and unchanged, always set sometime in the distant past. If this is the only time kids hear about this or that group of people, in unchanged stories set long ago, they might easily get the idea that those people *no longer exist*. (I do, in fact, know people who grew up with the assumption that Native Americans all conveniently died a few hundred years ago!) Setting this story in a modern city not only makes it easier for kids to relate to it, it also helps prevent them from thinking the people who told this story are all dead now - they can't be, because this is a city! Of course, maybe you're not like me. Maybe you don't overthink every thing you do :) In that case, all you need to know that this is a sweet and funny story about Coyote, a star, and New York City. Go buy it.Oh, and also, at the end, they give a lot of background information on Native American trickster tales and some history as well. That's useful.