Cover image for When animals were people : a Huichol Indian tale = Cuando los animales eran personas : un cuento huichol
When animals were people : a Huichol Indian tale = Cuando los animales eran personas : un cuento huichol
Larson, Bonnie, 1942-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Santa Fe, N.M. : Clear Light Publishers, [2002]

Physical Description:
32 pages : color illustrations ; 27 cm
A traditional Huichol folktale of the magical time when animals had human characteristics and were first learning from the Spirits of Nature and each other to find their true homes and unique wisdom.
General Note:
Prologue/Prʹologo -- The story/La Historia -- The wisdom of animals -- About the illustrations -- About the Huichol people.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
F1221.H9 L37 2002 Juvenile Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



"Bright, intricate, and kinetic [the illustrations] carry the story entirely on their own, and will fascinate children with both their antic quality and textured appearance. A brief description of the process the artist uses appears at the end of the book, and could well serve to inspire art projects.";" (School Library Journal ) "Using both kind guidance and harsh lessons, the Spirits of Nature helped all the animal people find their true homes and to achieve their unique wisdom." (from the Prologue) When Animals Were People takes children into a magical time and place in Huichol Indian folklore where newly-created beings were evolving into the creatures they were meant to be and finding the habitats they were meant to enjoy. According to tradition, these early ancestors of today's forest-dwellers had human characteristics, physical as well as emotional; hence they were sometimes referred to as animal people. This concept of animal people is very appealing to children as well as easily and intuitively understood by them. This delightful folktale shows how Turtle Person learned to be patient; how Squirrel Person learned to find safety in high places; and how Wolf Person learned not allow greed to block his common sense--all important survival skills for each of these animals today. While enjoying an animal tale filled with bits of wisdom and humor, children will be able to learn some lessons about the interdependence of all living things and the natural environment. The brilliantly-colored illustrations are from Indigenous yarn paintings called cuadros, created by applying beeswax and pine pitch to a board then carefully applying the yarn. The artist, Modesto Rivera Lemos, created the yarn paintings specifically to illustrate this story. Of the yarn paintings in a previous volume, Watakame's Journey (Clear Light, 1999), School Library Journal says, "Brightly colored strands of wool provide bold outlines for the contrasting interior patterns. These fanciful flowers and spirits pulse with movement against the solid-colored, but still highly textured backgrounds...children will be begging for yarn to tell their own stories." Each page is written in both English and Spanish, giving children the ability to read in either language, or both, providing another learning opportunity. Children will also absorb some of the Huichol cultural and spiritual heritage from this traditional folktale. Adults as well will enjoy the astonishing beauty of the illustrations and the simple yet profound truths reflected in When Animals Were People. About the author: Bonnie Larson is a Spanish Language graduate of U.C.L.A. She is also a former Montessori teacher and founder and administrator of alternative schools. She has made many trips to Tepic, Mexico, and the surrounding area where Huichol people live. There she learned many traditional Huichol stories and the meanings of the yarn painting symbols from a Huichol shaman and various Huichol artists. Bonnie Larson lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she is involved in supporting various causes benefiting the Huichol people. She is co-author with Hallie Love of Watakame's Journey (Clear Light, 1999). About the artist: Modesto Rivera Lemus, the narrator and illustrator of this tale, is an indigenous Huichol of Nayarit, Mexico. He spends part of the year in the town of Tepic, where his children attend school. He spends the rest of the year on a small ranch where he lives a traditional life of hunting, fishing and farming. When he visits America, he demonstrates making the yarn paintings for museums and cultural events