C.J. Taylor,
Bones in the Basket: Native stories of the origin of people
(Tundra, 1994)

Bones in the Basket is a large hardback containing seven stories that explain how people began.

"Before all things began" is a Zuni tale of how Father Sky and Mother Earth prepared the world for the first inhabitants. A Mandan story, "From darkness to light," shows how the first people climbed out of the ground on a vine root, but the root broke and left half of them trapped in the darkness below ground forever.

The Cree give us "The Raft," which relates how the Giant Beaver, who wanted the world covered with water, and Wisagatcak, who wanted to create some land, were trying to outdo each other. Wisagatcak made a raft and, with Wolf's help, created land for the people.

"Big Raven creates the world" is a Chuckchee tale that shows how Big Raven created the world for man to inhabit but needed the help of Spider Woman to create companions for the men. An Osage story, "A place to have children," relates how the spirits of people and animals lived in the lower parts of heaven, but wanted to have bodies, a place to live, and children. This is their search to find someone who could give them bodies and a home.

"Creation" is from the Mohawk. This is a sad story with a strong moral about behaving properly and doing the right thing, even against the greatest adversity. In the end, everything works out well -- the world is completed and man is created.

"Bones in the basket" is a funny story from the Modoc. The Creator sure has a hard time trying to create humans from a basket of bones. Each time he tries to bring the bones into the world, they get scared and run back into the underground world of darkness. This is my favorite for reading aloud.

The final page provides a paragraph about each of the tribes, a bit of their history, their current situation, and the vitals of their region and culture.

C.J. Taylor's writing style is ideal for children. She uses a staccato style with strong statements and vivid imagery. She infuses her characters with heavy emotions and feelings that are easily discerned by the reader. She is one of the best in the field of children's literature.

Taylor's artwork also is breathtaking. The oil paintings are certain to mesmerize almost any child. Bright colors and extensive use of space combine with intricate details to provide hours of viewing pleasure and plenty of topics for discussion. Her artwork is created for, and totally supports, the scenes in the story being told.

Taylor, a Mohawk, is an artist and children's author who works to bring native culture and history to the children's literature genre. She travels extensively through North America, has organized several Native art exhibitions, and has artwork in many private collections. Amazingly, she is a self-taught artist.

Bones in the Basket is a marvelous collection of Native American creation folklore. It will amuse children of all ages.

book review by
Alicia Karen Elkins

Agree? Disagree?
Send us your opinions!

what's new