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Book Song of the Hermit Thrush: An Iroquois Legend (Native American Legends) by Dominic (1998-08-01)


Song of the Hermit Thrush: An Iroquois Legend (Native American Legends) by Dominic (1998-08-01)

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Review Text

  • By Lawrance Bernabo on August 28, 2005

    A long, long time ago the birds and animals made an agreement to live peacefully together by dividing the forest. The birds would live in the trees and the rest of the creatures would live on the ground. This worked well until the morning came, an which point all of the animals that were grateful for the sunrise and wanted to praise the day started screeching, squawking, growling, and bellowing. At the next meeting it was decided that while a song to give thanks for the day was a good idea the sound of their collective voices was not. So they decided to have a contest to see which animal had the song best suited for this great honor.The title of this Iroquois legend, retold by Gloria Dominic with illustrations by Charles Reasoner, gives away to young readers which animal is going to come up with the sweetest sounding song. But how the Hermit Thrush comes up with the song and when he sings it will come as a surprise. One of the interesting things about ancient myths and legends is how they explain aspects of nature, such as the sweet song of the Hermit Thrush. As the quotation at the beginning of the book points out: "It may be thought that the memory of things may be lost with us. We nevertheless have methods of transmitting from father to son an account of all these things." Young students have a tendency to ask "why" a lot and this book will answer that question, even though they have never asked this specific variation on that constant theme.As is the case with all of the books in this series the back of the volume looks at the history of the Iroquois. A map lays out the Iroquois homeland across what is now New York State as this section describes the culture and daily life of these Native Americans. There are photographs and drawings that show the food and clothing of the Iroquois, as well as a look at where the Iroquois live today. This is followed by a Glossary of terms from "buckskin" to "wampum," and a list of Important Dates from Columbus landing in the Americans in 1492 up to 1988-89 when the sacred wampum belts of the Six Nations were returned to them from a couple of museums. There is also a photography of a Hermit Thrush in the back so that you can judge how well of a job Reasoner did. One of his fortes as an artist is the authentic detail he provides for the people in these stories, but except for the grandmother who tells this story to her grandchildren as the framing device for "Song of the Hermit Thrush." But in this one the best watercolor paintings are ones where does the elk or any animal with lots of brown, because the variant shadings are quite compelling.I have some concerns regarding the historical details provided in the back of these books, but they are only intended as an introduction to these cultures. A bibliography is provided specific to the Iroquois, so there are plenty of opportunities for young students and their teachers (or parents) to find out more. For more examples of Native American Lore & Legend you can check out these other books by Dominic and Reasoner: "First Woman and the Strawberry: A Cherokee Legend," "Coyote and the Grasshoppers: A Pomo Legend," "Brave Bear and the Ghosts: A Sioux Legend," "Sunflower's Promise: A Zuni Legend," and "Red Hawk and the Sky Sisters: A Shawnee Legend."

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