CM June 14, 
1996. Vol. II, Number 35

image The Monster from the Swamp:
     Native Legends about Demons, Monsters and Other Creatures.

Written and Illustrated by C. J. Taylor.
Montreal: Tundra Books, 1995. 32pp, cloth, $17.95.
ISBN: 0-88776-361-8.

Subject Headings:
Indians of North America-Folklore.
Legends-United States.

Kindergarten - grade 8 / Ages 5 - 13.
Review by Harriet Zaidman.



     The greedy giant had taken away all the water from the earth. Rivers stopped flowing. Oceans, lakes, streams and ponds had dried up.
     People were desperate and cried out: "All the animals have died of thirst. There are no more fish or even birds. Nearly all the plants have dried up. Soon even their roots will die and we will all die, too. Who will help us?"

THE SUBTITLE OF THIS BOOK describes its contents perfectly. The Monster from the Swamp contains eight legends from different North American aboriginal tribes, all dealing with monsters and demons -- and how they are defeated. The stories are two to three pages long, and are accompanied by beautiful, full-page paintings by the author.

Image     C.J. Taylor is noted for sensitively recording aboriginal legends from tribes across North America. She is an artist, and her talent is exhibited in several well-known books: How Two-Feather Was Saved from Loneliness; The Ghost and the Lone Warrior; Little Water and the Gift of the Animals; The Secret of the White Buffalo; How We Saw the World: Native Stories of the Way Things Began; and Bones in the Basket: Native Stories of the Origins of People.

Image     Taylor's books are very popular with both young and older children, for her understated style and the rich illustrations in which the skies are brilliant blue, the skies flaming red, the monsters agonized and the heroes gentle and triumphant. They have a mystical quality that is especially appealing to children. The stories are spare but well written, and explain the phenomena of life through legend.

Image     Since The Monster from the Swamp is a collection of brief tales, the reader is quickly plunged into each story. Because of this, the stories are suited to an individual or classroom of students who are already familiar with the genre of aboriginal legends and need little introduction to the setting or characters. The value of this collection is that the stories come from a wide range of tribes from the Tlingit in Alaska and B.C. to the Comanche of the American plains. The reader can compare approaches to nature from different tribes. Taylor gives credit to individuals who have kept the legends alive and at the end of the book describes where each tribe lives, and gives some details about them.

     This book will be a welcome addition to a library or classroom collection.

Highly Recommended

Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg.

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Copyright © 1996 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364