Coyote Speaks - Wonders of the Native American World
by Ari Berk and Carolyn Dunn

Publisher: Abrams Book For Young Readers
ISBN-10: 0810993724
ISBN-13: 978-081993723

From the Publisher:

"Coyote Speaks explains how to look at and appreciate Native American culture. For thousands of years, tribal ways and wisdom have been passed down in story, song, dance, and art from elder to child, from tribe to tribe, and from Native peoples to the world at large. This book gathers many of these beliefs and traditions, enabling the outsider to appreciate the vast and diverse world of the First People. Among the subjects addressed are: the meanings of certain animals and symbols, what medicine people do, and how the natural world, the animal world, and the spirit world interact. Of the more than five hundred known tribes, nearly fifty are represented, from all regions of North America.

   The book is profusely illustrated with paintings, artifacts, and photographs and includes a glossary of tribes and an index." 


From Children's Literature:

"This generously sized and exquisitely presented mix of original poetry, retold traditional stories and linking commentary is an answer from within Native America to two centuries of decontextualized appropriation of story. Of the more than 500 tribes of North America, nearly 50 find expression in this meticulously crafted collection that opens windows onto indigenous traditions while avoiding the pitfalls of essentialism. The stories are contained within chapters focused on medicine people, word magic, creation, the magic of art and artifacts, hero figures, guardians of wild places, trickster and related animal characters, and stories from tribal memories. A final chapter looks forward, addressing mythmaking in the 21st century. Within each content area, however, the lines between story and commentary are gently blurred, so that form and content both reflect societies with story at their heart. Even the introduction begins with brief text that erases distinctions between what we think of as real and imaginary, then moves through a Cherokee ballgame story and concludes with this reminder: "When we walk the lands of these stories in our imaginations, it is vital to understand that we are guests and need to tread softly." The retellings are simple, vital, fluid and direct, each in a style fitting to the story. Some like the transformation tales are short and pointed. Others like "The Daughter of Sun" span vast periods of mythic time, so we can feel the sweep of the storyteller's prose. Still others such as "Song of the World" (Pima) employ both prose and song. Here the tale moves from its launching in primordial time, through the journey of the first man, and then in a swift one-twoconclusion, arrives right into the reader's here and now: "He picked up the sun and placed it in the sky, and it is still there, just as he made it." Parchment-effect pages showcase the rendering by Berk of selected petroglyphs. The book is additionally enriched by the incorporation of a range of artwork from photographs of southwestern kachinas and bone artifacts from the Arctic, to stunning contemporary art such as Hazel Merritt's iconic painting of a satellite dish with a Navajo wedding basket design on it. As an example of how text and form are perfectly married, the facing page carries a poem titled "Beautyway" that evokes both the Dine ceremony and the troubled ecology and history of the Four Corners region. Back matter contains a list of tribes and nations mentioned in the book, a select bibliography, a note on sources, extensive illustration credits and an index. In all, Coyote Speaks is a gift offered up with a delicate and caring touch, inviting both young readers and adults to explore its pages again and again."

Reviewer: Uma Krishnaswami

From Booklist (American Library Association):

 "This comprehensive volume about Native American culture looks like a coffee-table book, and the handsome open design, with clear type and beautiful reproductions on quality paper, will certainly encourage browsers. But readers will also find a great amount of valuable detail, including stories, songs, commentary, and art of nearly 50 Native American tribes. Also included are creation myths and animal tales of tricksters and transformation as well as a discussion of mythmaking in the twenty-first century. Original poetry and retold stories by Dunn (who is Cherokee/Muskogee/Seminole) and Berk draw on the oral tradition. A gorgeous Shoshone hide painting that depicts a buffalo dance after a hunt shows and tells the elemental lesson--from ancient times and for today--not to take more than is needed. That is a lot to take on in one book, but there is nothing generic in this celebration of diversity and connections. Extensive back matter includes an annotated list of tribes and nations. A rich collection of exciting art and story that keeps the past alive."

--Rochman, Hazel Copyright 2008 Booklist

From Midwest Book Review

"Rich traditions, stories and artifacts are ways in which we learn about the history and culture various Native American tribes. A beautifully designed book co-authored by Ari Berk and Carolyn Dunn, "Coyote Speaks Wonders Of The Native American World", provides an overview of nearly fifty known tribes drawn from all regions of North America. As the authors simply state, stories carry traditions. However, traditions are not always simple and they are what defined each tribe as its own distinct people. Artfully designed with beautiful pictures, "Coyote Speaks" will show readers the meaning and role of certain animals and symbols, what shamans and medicine people do, and how the animal world, natural world and spirit world interact. This book encourages better understanding of Native American cultures in presenting through word and image some of the life ways and story-paths of America's first people. Rich in design and ease of text, as well as profusely illustrated throughout, "Coyote Speaks Wonders Of The Native American World" is for young readers to adults and is very highly recommended for school and community library Native American reference collections and supplemental reading lists."

A Few Words From the Author

I began this book when I was a graduate student working with my mentor, N.Scott Momaday. Scott was, from the beginning, very supportive of my work on this book. But as the book neared completion, life took over. There was a dissertation to be finished, a move back East, a new life to begin. So the book kept its own company for a while. 

It wasn't until I met Carolyn Dunn, that I began to think about this book again, about what it might become. Carolyn is an extraordinary poet and writer, and she and I went back into the text, adding stories, original poems, images of art and artifact. 

The stories are mostly retellings of Native American myths and legends. Many of these stories come from older collections, texts that had lost their connection with the orality of their first tellings. Our goals were simply to make these stories available to young readers, and in a way that might suggest something more of their original oral form. We also wanted to show that these stories are not merely museum pieces, that they are part of living cultures. We wanted to show that stories are dynamic, always changing, always moving. 

I am especially pleased with the chapter we wrote together on the Los Angeles river. Both Carolyn and I were born along this river. The last story in the book speaks to this, and to the enduring spirit of place, even in a land dominated by concrete and endless boulevards.
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