This blog is a continuation of a class assignment for the TWU course 5603, Literature for Children and Young Adults. Subsequent entries are for TWU course 5653, Multicultural Literature for Children and Young Adults. The new entries are for TWU course 5663, Poetry for Children and Young Adults.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Between Earth & Sky Legends of Native American Sacred Places

By Joseph Bruchac
Illustrated by Thomas Locker

cover image retrieved from

Bruchac, Joseph. 1996 BETWEEN EARTH & SKY   LEGENDS OF NATIVE AMERICAN SACRED PLACES. San Diego, CA. Harcourt Brace & Co.  
ISBN-13: 978-0152020620

Plot Summary
Little Turtle and his uncle, Old Bear, share a poignant conversation as they walk through their native land. Little Turtle questions if all tribes have sacred places, as the Delaware Indians do. Old Bear responds with legends from tribes from around the country, each representing one of the cardinal directions, as well as Above, Below, and the place Within. Little Turtle comes to see that Native tribes from many areas have tales and traditions similar to his own, with morals or to explain a natural occurrence. 

Critical Analysis
            Joseph Bruchac selects an endearing method to relate legends and tales from around the United States. The legends retold in this book are set within a conversation between Little Turtle, a young Indian boy, and Old Bear, his uncle. Since much folklore is retold within family settings, this is the perfect framework for the retelling of several Native American tales from all areas of the country. Old Bear selects one story each from the North, South, East, and West, as well as Above , Below, and Within. A comfortable familial bond is felt during the conversations before and after the tales are relayed. Bruchac identifies the tribe each tale is thought to have originated in. He provides a map and additional information about the legends and tribes, as well, to enhance the learning experience for the reader.
            Thomas Locker’s gorgeous landscapes are the perfect backdrop for this book. Throughout the book, as in all Native tales, homage is paid to the land and its importance in the balance of life. The serene landscapes provide a visual connection to the land indigenous to each tale. Picturesque panoramic views of the tribal land each tale represents give the reader a peaceful feeling, and a sense of the interdependence between man and land. The blend of visual representation and storytelling create a satisfying collection of Native American lore.

Review Excerpts
From Publishers Weekly
A Native American man tells his nephew 10 legends of sacred places. PW praised the "gracefully compressed" unrhymed verse and the alternately "ethereal" and "atmospheric" oil paintings. All ages.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal
Grade 3-6 Bruchac frames 11 legends of Native American sacred places with a conversation between Little Turtle and his uncle, Old Bear, who says, " 'There are sacred places all around us...They are found in the East and in the North, in the South and in the West, as well as Above, Below, and the place Within. Without those places we lose our balance.' " Bruchac writes in language that is dignified and almost poetic in its simplicity. The text is printed in stanzas, enhancing the image of prose poems. …It is difficult to convey the beliefs of an entire people in one brief legend divorced from the rest of their tradition, yet these selections point to the richness possible in looking at the Earth in a spiritual way. Karen James, Louisville Free Public Library, KY
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist
Gr. 2^-5. In response to Little Turtle's questions about places sacred to the Delaware Indians, Old Bear explains that all people have sacred places and shares 10 legends from different tribes.…The picture-book format is similar to that of Thirteen Moons on Turtle's Back (1992). Here, short, easy-to-understand legends are accompanied by full-page oil paintings in Locker's dramatic signature style. Pairing places familiar to many students, such as Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon, with legends offers readers new perspectives on the natural world and an excellent curricular connection. A solid addition for school and public libraries. Karen Hutt

From Kirkus Reviews
From the creators of The Earth Under Sky Bear's Feet (1995), philosophical free-verse legends about (and portraits of) places across the US and the native people who hold them sacred. Each tale is colorful, if stiff; each contains an ethical point; each represents a direction or an aspect of direction by which people locate themselves in physical and spiritual landscapes: east, west, north, south, center, above, below, balance lost, and balance held…. The frame (and Old Bear's overarching first-person presence in the l
egends) distances readers, creating a gap that the real beckoning treasures of this book--the tales themselves and Locker's monumental oil landscapes--cannot bridge (Picture book/folklore. 6+) -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP.

“An excellent choice that will provoke both introspection and discussion.”—The Horn Book

“Offers readers new perspectives on the natural world and an excellent curricular connection. A solid addition for school and public libraries.”—Booklist

*     During a unit on Native Americans, assign each student one page from this book. After studying the illustration and reading the legend, students will compose a poem reflective of the specific legend and tribe.
*     Working with partners or small groups, students will create a diorama representing each of the regional legends.
*     Read more of Thomas Bruchac’s books about Native Americans. Compare and contrast the legends from the various regions.
*     Create original artwork depicting the landscapes or legends in this or other Thomas Bruchac books.
*     Use this book to support a unit on Native Americans.

*     Other books by Thomas Bruchac:
Turkey Brother, and Other Tales: Iroquois Folk Stories.
The Good Message of Handsome Lake
The First Strawberries: A Cherokee Story
A Boy called Slow
The Earth Under Sky Bear's Foot
The Story of the Milky Way: A Cherokee Tale
Lasting Echoes. An Oral History of Native American People
Crazy Horse's Vision
Code Talker       About the journey of Ned Begay, a Navajo man's voyage during WWII.
Buffalo Song
Night Wings

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