cover image Turtle Island ABC: A Gathering of Native American Symbols

Turtle Island ABC: A Gathering of Native American Symbols

Gerald Hausman. First Glance Books, $15 (36pp) ISBN 978-0-06-021307-7

Not so much a collection of ``Native American symbols'' as a smattering of watered-down motifs from Native American cultures, this ABC adds up to not much. A lot of the information here seems empty: Hausman writes, for example, that W is for Wolf, the wanderer who was sent to find the ``secret of the dawn'' and came back without it, a meaningless anecdote unless told in the Native way, as a palatable offering of a life lesson. An introduction purports to add authority to the selection of words, but the book belies it. For instance, X is said to stand for ``the Crossing Place''--a curious and confusing blend of sounds and letters. The ``symbols,'' heavily weighted to the Plains and Southwest cultures, occasionally neglect to indicate origin (as in R is for Round, the shape of the lodge The People live in; this might be a reference to the Navajo hogan, although readers have earlier been shown the boxlike pueblos). Soft-edged, occasionally blurred illustrations in a palette of Southwestern colors are not particularly apt, and the lack of Native design elements results in a very Anglo-looking book. All ages. (May)