James Mooney (George F. Scheer, editor)
Cherokee Animal Tales
(Holiday House, 1968; Council Oak, 2006)

Cherokee Animal Tales was originally published in 1968 by Holiday House. This 2006 edition is the seventh printing of a magnificent collection of children's stories. The stories are excerpts from Myths of the Cherokee by James Mooney. They have been edited for clarity and mechanics, but are otherwise the works of Mooney.

Should you purchase this book if you already have the Mooney book? Absolutely. If you are in any way associated with children or are looking for a gift for a child, you should get Cherokee Animal Tales. The stories are charming, often comical, and they provide enough tension and excitement to command the attention of almost any child.

These 13 stories explain things we see in animals in the natural world: why the deer has antlers, the black racer snake darts around and doubles back, the terrapin's shell is scarred, the redbird is red and so forth. But they also teach us about the people who created them, the Cherokee.

The pencil illustrations, by Robert Frankenberg, are gorgeous, especially the colored cover. They are intricately detailed, providing life-like realism, yet conveying ample humor. The animals' expressions reveal emotion through subtlety and precision of craft. They offer plenty of subject matter for discussion with children.

The introduction by book editor George F. Scheer, "About the Cherokee," provides a 13-page overview of Cherokee history, culture and beliefs. Scheer makes several points that are often overlooked and does a good job of rapidly sweeping through several centuries. There are a few words that may be a bit advanced for the smaller children, but for the most part, Scheer keeps things simple and easy to understand.

George F. Scheer's first book for children, Yankee Doodle Boy: A Young Soldier's Adventures in the American Revolution Told by Himself won the 1964 Thomas Alva Edison Foundation National Mass Media Award for Special Excellence in Portraying America's Past.

Cherokee Animal Tales is a wonderful collection of stories for children. This is an especially suitable book for reading aloud, so parents and grandparents will really appreciate this book. If you want a book to entertain one child or many, you cannot go wrong with this timeless classic.

review by
Alicia Karen Elkins

7 June 2008

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