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A Lizard's Life Among the Seri Indians

by Amalia Astorga / Gary Paul Nabhan
illustrated by Janet K. Miller
Out of Stock Until Further Notice.

Skipping Stones Honor Book

Product Details

Reading is Fundamental

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10-digit ISBN0-938317-55-5
13-digit ISBN9780938317555
Page Count40
Publication DateOctober 1, 2001
RightsAll Rights Available
Much of science is asking questions, then looking and listening for answers. Famed ethnobiologist Gary Paul Nabhan had one simple question for the Seri people of the Sonoran Desert: Why do lizards, which are endangered elsewhere, continue to thrive in the Seri homeland?

Instead of giving him a straightforward "scientific" answer, Seri elder Amalia Astorga tells Gary the bittersweet story of her friend Efraín, the desert sun-blotched lizard. In telling her story, Amalia gives us all an insight into the Seri culture and into their special relationship with the desert and the sea and with the plants and animals who live there.

Efraín isn't just a story about the relationship between Amalia and the lizard she loved. It also includes information about the Seri people, how and where they live, and their culture and their customs. Teachers will be able to use this book as a social studies text as well as a literary text. The inside of the dust jacket has a map of the Seri world and more information about these "endangered people."
School Library Journal
The zebra-tailed lizard is becoming extinct except in those areas of Baja California populated by a small tribe of Seri Indians. Nabhan, a naturalist and environmentalist, returned to Seri lands to ask the people how they kept these animals alive. The story in this book is the answer, provided by a Seri elder. A special lizard named Efraín became a friend of the Astorga family. He showed up regularly to be fed and, it seemed, to socialize. When he was killed by wild dogs, the entire family mourned his passing.

The book closes with information on the Seri tribe, their methods of cultural transmission and survival in a harsh environment, and their worldview. Less a picture book than a brief ethnographic study with a story embedded in it, this is an excellent tool for beginning discussions on a number of topics, from cultural values to environmentalism.

Miller's illustrations are extraordinary. Created using a technique called reverse glass painting, the pictures are precise and clear, with blocks of vivid color and finely delineated forms. The primitive look, reminiscent of Carmen Lomas Garza's work, enhances the primary-source feeling of the text.
Children's Literature
To find out why lizards prosper in the land of the Seri Indians, ethnobiologist Gary Paul Nabhan travels to the Sonoran Desert where they live today. There he hears the beautiful story of Efraín, the short-tailed lizard, who became a pet of the storyteller many years before. This all-encompassing book unfolds in three parts. The first part relates the reason for Nabhan's return to the village he had visited many years before. The second part is the story of Efraín himself, and the third part of the book offers facts about the Seri people and their desire to maintain and preserve their customs and language.

The presentation of informative text in this way enables the reader to see how the Seri people continue to pass on their heritage through stories and myths. Brightly colored illustrations show the coastal dwelling people, the desert conditions and many types of lizards. The book would be a beneficial addition to a middle grade social studies curriculum when studying these Mexican people, who are sometimes considered endangered today.
Chicago Tribune
The Seri Indians, who live along the Sea of Cortes (or Gulf of California), between Baja California and mainland Mexico, can name "more than 48 kinds of lizards, turtles and snakes" but this book isn't simply a study of the reptiles. Rather it's a rendering, and the pictures function importantly here, of the complex interrelatedness between the Seri people and the animals. Amalia Astorga, a Seri elder, tells Gary Paul Nabhan a story of one lizard, Efrain, and the personal intensity with which she sees him as an individual provides the best example of the Seri's willingness to see these animals as contributing neighbors.
Skipping Stones

A native Seri storyteller describes the loving relationship between a lizard and a young girl. It also solves the mystery of why lizards thrive near this tribe but are endangered elsewhere. Ages 8 and up.
Native Peoples Arts & Lifeways Magazine
The dual narration in this simple yet compelling story provides levels of meaning that will engage both youngsters and adults: the compassion, love and sadness of an enduring relationship; the wisdom of Native lifeways; and the adaptability and resilience of Native people living in a contemporary world. The illustrations, originally created as reverse glass paintings, strikingly reinforce these themes, which leave us pondering our own questions about our relationship to others and to the natural world that surrounds us.
Tradicion Revista
For any child who loves lizards and other icky creatures, this is the book for them. Especially great for boys who have trouble finding good beginner books.
Yellow Brick Road
This highly personal tale of a people's relationship to plants and animals of the desert will appeal to all.
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