Review from Multicultural Review February 2 2000
Written at the upper-elementary or middle school level Pacific Island Legends is an interesting sampling of stories from an often overlooked part of the world. The stories are indexed thematically allowing students to investigate a cross-section of island lore. For example by comparing creation myths throughout the Pacific. This book is illustrated with culturally appropriate woodcuts by Connie J. Adams. This is an excellent companion piece to B. Dunford and R. Ridgells Pacific Neighbors: The Islands of Micronesia Melanesia and Polynesia.
Review by Treena Shapiro Honolulu Star-Bulletin June 4 1999
Accessing a cultures legends is often the most enjoyable way to gain appreciation for its history and tradition. When told well tales of love courage foolishness and horror can excite the imagination and inspire readers to search for the history beyond the mythology.
The authors of Pacific Island Legends: Tales from Micronesia Melanesia Polynesia and Australia sought to do just that in a companion to two fourth-grade textbooks on Pacific area history.
For the most part they succeeded. The 40-plus legends drawn from numerous Pacific Island sources are memorable tales illustrating the values of each culture.
In How the Women Saved Guam disrespect for the land results in drought and famine. In Turtle and Canoe pride and greed leads to death by drowning. Kow and Buneney demonstrates the way generosity and kindness are more critical to survival than appearance.
Some of the most powerful stories deal with breaking tradition. In How the Du-gong Came to Be a mother saves her newborn child from superstitious infanticide. In Chiefs Day Ends a young prince risks his life to save his fellow villagers from being the main course at a celebratory feast.
Cannibalism is a prevalent theme. Some stories have mothers craving their offsprings flesh. For this reason parents should consider reading the book with or to their children. Parents may also want to be selective about which tales to share as some material may be too explicit for youngsters. For example the sexual innuendo and bestiality overtones in Hina and Her Lover Eel seem a bit mature for the elementary set.
Overall however the legends provide a good initiation into the history of the Pacific region. Although designed to accompany more detailed texts this volume can stand alone.
Pacific Island Legends offers parents and children a chance to bond through shared reading and the discussions that will undoubtedly follow.
Review from Laughing Bear Newsletter January 1 2000
Want to know how to steal the moon or how the rat got its tail? This fascinating collection of folk tales includes 44 such legends.
Written for upper elementary and middle school level students Pacific Island Legends can be used in the classroom but its also a fascinating book for anyone interested in folklore from South Pacific cultures. The tales are arranged by region and an introduction to each describes the island the legend comes from its history and what life is like there today.
Pacific Island Legends is beautifully illustrated with woodcuts and unfamiliar vocabulary words are defined in the page margins. It can also be used in conjunction with Bess Press language book series.
Review from Saipan Tribune June 28 1999
Rediscovering myths from oblivion.
Imagine the sweet scent of the trees around you. The firelight is flickering. The wind is clattering through the coconut palms. Listen to the music of the waves and the orchestra of nocturnal creatures.
Now youre ready to open this book: Pacific Island Legends: Tales from Micronesia Melanesia Polynesia and Australia.
Once upon a time there was a vain young woman who was an absolute whiner. She complains about everything: The sea is too salty. The food is too fishy. I must have fresh water fresh fruits. Her husband tries everything to please her only to find out later that she has been unfaithful to him. He kills her and throws her body into the water. Her blood curdles to produce mosquitoes.
This according to a Northern Marianas legend was the reason why female mosquitoes buzz in peoples ears. They suck human blood in hopes of becoming human again.
The legend of the mosquitoes is one of the myths featured in the 266-page Pacific Island Legends: Tales from Micronesia Melanesia Polynesia and Australia by Nancy Bo Flood William Flood and Beret Strong.
This book is for children and adults Nancy Flood said in an interview during the launching of the book at Coffee Care Restaurant last Saturday.
The book tells about how the world was made and what men need to learn about in order to get along said Flood an instructor at the Northern Marianas College and author of another childrens book From the Mouth of the Monster Eel.
Hidden behind the doors
The project began a year and a half ago when Nancy got a call from Bess Press publishing company in Hawaii asking her to put together stories from the Marianas. This would be the first collection of island stories for children.
Nancy sat down with her husband William Flood and Beret Strong who like her are Pacific culture enthusiasts.
We thought it would be a great idea to expand the scope of the book to include other regions in the Pacific said William Flood a pediatrician at Saipan Health Clinic and column writer. I picked Polynesia Nancy picked Melanesia and Micronesia and Beret did the Australian region. Our job was to find island stories and rewrite them in a way that kids can enjoy them.
So the three rummaged through libraries in Guam University of Hawaii and the Northern Marianas College and discovered valuable collections and cultural treasures which have been concealed in oblivion.
We found stories which are about a hundred years old. People were not aware of them because they were hidden behind the doors of these libraries Mr. Flood said. The three of us chose the stories that we liked best the most humorous and most exciting for kids. We tried to get a balance of the islands and tried to get as many islands as we could and retold them in the fourth grade level.
To make the book more appealing to children the authors had Saipan artist Connie Adams draw culturally-flavored woodcut illustrations.
What was really exciting was that the three of us share this passion for cultures of the Pacific. We were able to work together share information [with one another] and had conversations with other people. I think it was one of those experiences in which three heads are better than one said Nancy who won the CNMI Governors Award in 1997.
Strong former principal of the Northern Marianas Academy is now in Boulder Colorado. A graduate of Brown University Strong co-produced and directed Liweila a documentary film about the Refalawasch Carolinians of the Northern Marianas Islands.
Bess Press has just released Pacific Island Legends. The authors expect it to be used as part of school curriculum in Hawaii. It has guidelines for pronunciations of names and words not likely found in a standard English dictionary.
This book can also be used by scholars or anyone interested in folk tales and legends. We hope that it will be accessible to children and teachers so that people who live in the region can learn more about the Pacific and become more interested in their own islands Nancy said.
How the world came to be
Pacific Island Legends contains 44 myths which have been part of the islands oral tradition. In the earlier times islanders gathered at night to tell and listen to stories. They told enchanting tales that answered questions about how the world was created how things became the way they are and why animals behave the way they do.
A myth from New Caledonia explains that the seagull digs in the sand at low tide to look for the first mussels that hid from her a long time ago.
A Guam legend describes how women saved the island from an island-eating monster.
According to a legend from Caroline Islands a poor village boy is able to marry the tribal chiefs daughter by stealing the moon.
A scatter-brained warrior from New Zealand goes to the world of spirits to earn his wifes forgiveness by getting a tattoo. It is because of this mans forgetfulness that all living are forever blocked from entering the world of spirits.
A Papua New Guinea myth tells about how a young man was punished for loving the moon.
A legend from Cook Islands tells about how an eels love for a maiden creates the first coconut trees.
These stories may be different from other stories you have read. Some are funny and will make you laugh some are sad and may make you cry. Some are scary and perhaps should not be read alone in the dark especially if you can hear the waves and wind outside your window or inside your head the authors said.
Pacific Island Legends according to the authors could provide a window into the idyllic part of the world. They hope that the book will bring alive the magic of story telling and the wisdom found within these legends.
Review by Kirkus Review June 15 1999
Giant clams that give birth to the world cannibalistic ghosts and tender love stories swirl through these legends of the Pacific Islands.
The authors provide a historical and geographical context for this collection of tales from an oral tradition talk stories that they describe as a dance between teller and listener. Divided into sections reflecting the four distinct areas of the Pacific the book records the stories in an engaging and often exciting style. The islanders belief in magic and spirits along with their violence compassion and humor dominate the stories. Many stories are intended to teach children while others try to explain the world and history of the people such as how the Samoans finally abandoned cannibalism. Pronunciation and vocabulary guides appear in the margins aiding readers sometimes unnecessarily with entries on sassy haste boasting and gushed among them why will find thrills laughter grief disaster and triumphs here adding up to a charming portrait of an often neglected culture.
Review by Mary Hofmann School Library Journal October 1 1999
This anthropological tour of the Pacific Islands through legend is as seductive as Bloody Mari beckoning Bali Hai. Flood acknowledges the paradox of freezing oral stories in print and attempts to capture each geographical areas history and culture in introductory sections written in a crisp expository manner. The tales that follow are told in a simple conversational style. Stories include creation myths explanations of events and healthy doses of romance and intrigue where the ocean is the defining element that binds islands and life together. Micronesia includes tales from geographically isolated areas Guam the Mariana Islands Palau the Marshall Islands. From Melanesia: Papua New Guinea the Solomon Islands Fiji and others with over 1000 native language groups come stories of magical powers cannibalism and self-sacrifice. Tales from Polynesia explain life love and death. Only Australian aboriginal myths incorporate landlocked legends about the sun the kangaroo and the origin of frost. Indeed as a companion volume for anthropology textbooks Legends stands nicely on its own as an introductory overview and interested readers can locate additional legends from specific islands through the extensive bibliography. Sidebar definitions and pronunciation keys assist with unfamiliar vocabulary. Woodcut illustrations are beautifully rendered and culturally evocative unfortunately there is no map of the islands. Nevertheless given the quality and scope of the work this is an admirable collection.
Review from Reviewers Bookwatch July 1 1999
Over forty traditional or historical stories from Micronesia Melanesia Polynesia and Australia are included in this survey which presents tales retold at a fourth-grade reading level but which interest any adults researching Pacific Island literary and cultural traditions. Geographical cultural and historical background about islands and regions are included in the important survey which adds woodcut illustrations to provide visual impact.
Review by Jolie Cotton The Honolulu Advertiser May 1 1999
A collection of 44 stories grouped by Micronesian Melanesian Polynesian and Australian regions. Each section has an introduction to the islands in the area followed by stories and legends. There is a wide range of emotion in these tales from scary La Kakelok about a woman becoming a witch who eats people to the inspirational How the Kangaroo Got Her Pouch. At least one story of creation is included for each region. Difficult words and pronunciation guide are conveniently highlighted in the margins. Clean crisp woodcut illustration add just the right amount of cultural flavor. The book was designed as a literary companion to Pacific Neighbors and Pacific Nations and Territories. A teacher guide available through Bess Press offers questions and activities for further studies.
Review by James Cox MidWest Book Review January 1 1999
The legends and folklore embodied in the culture and values of Pacific island peoples are showcased in Pacific Island Legends a single easy to read volume that is beautifully illustrated with the woodcut images of Connie J. Adams. Educators Bo Flood Beret Strong and William Flood have successfully collaborated to present forty-four legends from all over the Pacific serving to provide cultural access that will be appreciated by scholars and non-specialist general readers alike. Pacific Islands Legends is a highly recommended addition to any personal academic or public library multicultural myth legend and folklore reference collection.
Review from Foreword Magazine August 1 1999
Enchanted evenings: They slept side by side breathing in rhythm. The stars pulsed brightly in the sky. The night was calm as if even the breeze had gone to bed. The woman was the spirit of the moon betrothed to the sun and Aruako a man who wanted to marry her. Then the sun began to rise already boiling with rage. Aruako reached for the moon maiden but she was gone. The sun grew fiery pouring his hot anger onto Aruako. Aruako dies and today the village people of Papua New Guinea turn away from the moons lovely face.
Jealous Sun and His Beloved Moon is one of the forty-three traditional and historical tales grouped by region in Pacific Island Legends compiled by Bo Flood Beret E. Strong and William Flood with woodcut art by Connie J. Adams. It is a book for middle readers starting at fourth grade. Included are island histories and vocabulary marginalia.
These tales bring alive the magic of storytelling and conjure the images of clattering coconuts swaying palms and starry skies.
Review by Haillie Love Independent Publisher August 3 1999
This book for upper elementary through middle school level is a charming collection of forty-four traditional legends of the Pacific Islands New Zealand and Australia. It provided a window into the culture of these regions. The ancient tales are as refreshing as the ocean packed with histories cultural beliefs navigation lore and magic. The tales originated from the well-developed oral tradition of storytelling.
Before readers are swept away on tides of myth and enchantment the authors take care to set the stage. Introductory material engages the readers senses. For example the authors depict Saipans suicide cliff as a place where warm salt winds whip through the air slender white tropic birds swoop along the cliff face and the white surf crashes against black volcanic rocks. Tutuila Samoa is described as peaked lush and rainy appearing as crushed green velvet. Further the introductions enrich the readers knowledge of history and geography and recite interesting tidbits about the islands and the cultures. I particularly enjoyed discovering details such as in the Marshall Islands during typhoons people tie themselves to coconut trees so they wont be blown or washed away. In Melanesia if you gaze into a deep still pool a spirit may steal you by grapping your reflection.
The retelling of the legends is simple and authentic while capturing narrative flow and drama. One can hear the words as one reads of an elder talking story in the firelight as the night blackens. The reader is transported into worlds of supernatural beings and monsters. In one story an island-eating parrot fish with an immense mouth and gleaming teeth each fang bigger then a mans head bites off pieces of the reef.
Bold precise woodcut illustrations add visual interest to the pages. A challenging vocabulary is included supported by definitions and pronunciations in the margins. The book is intended as a literary companion to textbooks in curriculums covering study of this part of the world. For classrooms a teachers manual provides background information on each of the islands educational activities a thematic index and resources for further information.
I strongly recommend this book as a supplemental reader for courses of the Pacific Islands. It is a refreshing and creative approach to introductory cultures of the area. It will also be of interest to residents visitors scholars armchair travelers folklorists and all those readers interested in world myths and the Pacific Islands.
Review by Laura Post Latte Magazine August 1 1999
The lore of the Pacific islanders has been transferred orally form generation over the millennia. Now some of those tales and legends are in print. Pacific Island Legends by Bo Flood Beret E. Strong and William Flood is an easy-to-read book featuring 44 legends from Micronesians Melanesia Polynesian and Australia.
The book written at the upper-elementary/middle school level offers tales on why mosquitoes suck blood how to steal the moon how the rat got its tail fruit bats rescuing a princess how the kangaroo got her pouch and many many others. Tales are accompanied by beautiful woodcut illustrations. Teachers manuals are also available and the book makes a great literary companion to Pacific Nations and Territories and Pacific Neighbors.