by Lynne Cherry and Mark J. Plotkin, Illustrated by Lynne Cheery 1998. Harcourt Brace & Company. Printed in Mexico. 36 pages, hardcover, color illustrations, $16.00, ISBN 0-15-201281-8.
This book tells the tale of the joys and problems of the Shaman's Apprentice. The Shaman, whose name is Nahtahlah, is very famous in his tribe, the Tirio. He is respected by the "council of fire" which is made up of the great leaders. The Shaman's apprentice, whose name is Kamanya, is very helpful to him. Early in Kamanya's life, Nahtahlah's wisdom saved his life. Kamanya hoped that someday he could take Nahtahlah's place as Shaman.
Unfortunately, many in the tribe caught a disease called malaria when some white men came to dig for gold which killed many of the tribe. The book goes through other difficult challenges faced by the Tirio people.
This book was very interesting because I found out that herbs can do many things to heal and that they are made into medicines we use. I did not know that many like the emerald tree boa, scarlet macaw, and poison dart frogs had been taken from the forest and are disappearing. I liked the fact that the book was environmental. They use many herbs and there were smaller stories within the story. I think the title should have been "The Shaman's Tribe" since it looked at many things in addition to the training of an apprentice in the rainforest.
The book was written and illustrated by Lynne Cherry who also wrote The Great Kapok Tree. She was joined by Mark J. Plotkin who is the author of the original Tales of the Shaman's Apprentice, a book for adults.
One of my favorite parts of the book is the beautiful color illustrations on the inside cover pages of 39 special herbal medicines with their use, English name, and Tirio name. Many of these were used by Nahtahlah during the story.
I would recommend this book to kids who like hearing about other people's lives and who have an interest in herbal medicine and the rainforest. It can easily be read by children who have started reading longer books and would also be interesting to younger children who like hearing stories read by adults. The illustrations are spectacular.
[Isaac Silverman is a 10-year-old student at Doss Elementary, Austin, Texas.]
Article copyright American Botanical Council.
By Isaac Silverman