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Dancing Drum (Native American Legends) Paperback – September 19, 1998
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I loved reading this legend as I never had heard it before. The words are lovingly weaved together to tell the legend as it might have been handed down word of mouth. I loved how the young man made up for each deed or misdeed he did and eventually used his drum in thanksgiving. A beautiful testament to the people and the sky.
The pictures in the book are bold and beautiful. However, this book is certainly to be read by an older child as there are complex sentences. The pictures only enhance the words.
In addition to the legend, the author included in the back of the book about the Cherokee people including tragic circumstances and overcoming. Those pages even talk about the Cherokee of today, what they do and how they live. I think this is also a beautiful testament.
I would be amiss if I gave this book anything but a 5 star. Well, done!
Disclosure: I purchased a copy of this book for my own collections. The views expressed here are 100% my own and may differ with yours. ~Naila Moon
Adapted by Terri Cohlene and illustrated by Charles Reasoner, "Dancing Drum" tells the story of how the Sun became jealous of her brother the Moon. For the Moon the people made music and danced, but the Sun was convinced The People did not love her and so she sent scorching heat onto the land each day when she arose. During this time of the angry sun a boy named Dancing Drum lived in a small Cherokee village, and he is sent by the Shaman to go to the little men in the wood the ask them why Grandmother Sun is burning the land The People. They tell Dancing Drum that he must kill the Sun before she destroys them all. So they give him snake rattles to tie onto his moccasins and Dancing Drum changes into a snake. The plan is for him to bite the Sun when she comes out of her daughter's house.
Now, even the youngest reader knows full well that the Sun is not going to get killed and what makes this legend so fascinating is that things go horribly wrong (twice even). Then Dancing Drum and The People must find a way to make everything right again. The tales that Cohlene chooses to retell are always more complex than you would expect them to be and for older readers trying to figure out just why each legend includes the elements it does is always interesting. I do not know how fruitful it would be for a teacher to get young students to discuss the origins and meanings of such things, but it could be fun and there should be some basic appreciation for how myths and legends were used by ancient cultures to explain why things are the way they are in the world.
I like the Native American Legends series because in the back of each book after the story there is always a section devoted to providing young readers with information about the customs and lifestyles of the people from whom the story is taken. There are photographs of the Cherokee and some of the items that they make, from whaling models and rattles to floats and baskets. The informative text is devoted to their homeland, people, food and clothing, and a look at the Cherokees today where they are among the largest groups of Native Americans in the U.S. and are still maintaining an efficient form of self-government. The back of the book has a timeline of important dates in history and a glossary of key terms from "ani-yun-wiya" to "tsusgina'i."
The watercolor illustrations by Reasoner reflect the culture of the Cherokee in terms of both their art and dress. Reasoner paints figures who have no mouths and what I suddenly realize look like Snoopy eyes, which explains why I find them so compelling. I wonder if he is doing this on purpose. Other volumes in the Native American Legends series by Cohlene and Reasoner includes "Turquoise Boy: A Navajo Legend," "Ka-ha-si and the Loon: An Eskimo Legend," "Little Firefly: An Algonquian Legend," and "Quillworker: A Cheyenne Legend."