My Name is Cernunnos by Dusty Dionne and Jared Mackenzie

My Name is Cernunnos
Dusty Dionne (Author) and Jared Mackenzie (Illustrator)
Jupiter Gardens Press, 2013
62 pages

Reviewed by Uloboridae

As a reader, one of the many book-related phrases I have heard in life is “don’t judge a book by its cover”. In this case, my mistake was judging a book by its title.

I selected “My Name is Cernunnos” because I thought it would be a nice little story about Cerrunnos, or perhaps be a young child’s introduction to deities or mythology related to Cerrunnos. Instead, it is essentially “Baby’s first Animal Guide dictionary”, where Cerrunnos introduces the reader to some of his animal friends and describe what they symbolize. Not a bad, but it was completely unexpected.

The story centers on the reader being introduced to Cernunnos’s animal friends around the forest, both wild and domestic. The reader learns from Cernunnos about each animal’s particular powers, and learns how to apply their lessons to the reader’s life (i.e. appreciate what you have, listen to the adults in your life, etc.).

This could have been a good book, but the lack of consistency in both its writing style and its subject matter is why I give this book a low score. Most of the book is written in plain English and the symbolism is basic and easy for a young child to understand, so why have fancy words like “widdershins” to describe the energy of Cat when “clockwise” or “counterclockwise” works just as well? Why does the idea that Cat has opposing energy currents even matter in the first place? There is no explanation. At least the description of the Hummingbird having fairy garb and fairy associations makes sense because Hummingbirds DO look and act like common depictions of fairies. In contrast, the description of Cat just becomes too abstract for a young child, to the point where it’s meaningless (even as an adult, I fail to see what point Cat’s description has for the reader). To be fair, the book does give a glossary at the end of what those, and other new (to the child) terms mean. As a result, for others this may be turned into a teaching tool for their children.

The cow is another animal whose introduction felt wholly out of place. Most of the book had animals in rather familiar North American/European settings. When Cow came along though, suddenly a picture of a Hindu addressing an Indian Cow in religious regalia appears, with a vague description on how Cow is “a God to some people”. What People? Tell us more, this sort of thing is interesting! Don’t just randomly do this with Cow when you could add this sort of information to many of the other animals, like Cat and Crow. Children’s books do not need an overload of detail, but being very vague can make them lose interest too.

Finally, and this may be debatable, the book uses the term “medicine” frequently when referring to what each animal symbolizes. This could be considered cultural appropriation to some. Personally, I would not be comfortable reading this to a child, as I am not a member of any Native American tribe and did not grow up in a culture that gives context to the concept of “animal medicine”.

The illustrations in the book are charming and colorful, drawn in a comic-like style. There is a variety of people and animal activities present, along with different details to search for that tells a story (on their own and with the written text). The facial expressions (on humans and other animals), for example, are varied and can create a story within itself to the imaginative reader. My favorite is the page where Deer gives a monster an exasperated look, as if to sigh and say “You again? Are you kidding me? I just got rid of you on the last page”. I literally laughed out loud when I noticed that. I do not know if this book is meant to be as a print or as a .pdf file, but I feel that the illustrations would benefit greatly from being in a printed book format. The .pdf file format tends to degrade the images a bit, to the point where the labels on the animals are not quite legible.

Overall, I feel that this is an interesting topic and is arranged in a good format for a children’s book. However, I would recommend a tightening up of the language, and making the information more consistent, and clear.

Three pawprints out of five.

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3 Comments

  1. dustydionne said,

    September 12, 2014 at 2:02 pm

    A review! Thank you so much for taking the time to read ‘My Name is Cernunnos’! And a review as well! I am honored. I wish I had seen this when it came out, but for almost the past year I have been getting MNiC out from under the publisher who made the pictures all grainy. (That is not just in the pdf, but was also present in the print copy. Hence the need to get it under my own management.) I really appreciate your comments, and I have changed a few things. The reformatting of the text to work with the page, instead of Helvetica on white boxes. There are also 6 new illustrations that the publisher left on the cutting room floor, that are now in the book. There will one day be another edition, and I will take this article and any that I may find around the web, and find the best ways to make it better. I am all about adding detail to give more of the story that the reader thinks would make it richer. On the cultural appropriation of using the word “Medicine”, without getting too much into my autobiography, I was raised by the parents of friends, mostly, and one of my main caretakers as a child was Rev. Lillith Threefeathers. I learned much in those years from her, and those teachings have influenced my life. I bear them with honor and respect. I have Abunaki ancestry, but I would never claim to be a part of the tribe. I have simply been raised in the ways of reverence and animal medicine. The book has always been about being an Animal Totem Pre-primer for children. I absolutely have plans for more works about Cernunnos that wont necessarily be in this format, but in a format that is more a story about an adventure with Him. A also have “My Name is Anansi” coming down the pipe, and it IS a story. The oldest story, retold. Thank you SO MUCH for reviewing my book, and I hope the new edition, though it doesn’t address all of your concerns, helps alleviate some of them. Onward to the next story, and the next editions, and I hope they only get better for you, the reader.

  2. Amy John said,

    September 15, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    the author wrote a reply to your review, a very nice one filled with enthusiasm for feedback that was removed. I’ve read what it said and am appalled you would delete it.

    • Lupa said,

      September 15, 2014 at 1:34 pm

      I didn’t delete it; it just hadn’t been approved yet. All comments on this blog go into a moderation queue and are not made public until I approve them. Because I have been busy with a lot of out of town events this month, I’m a bit behind on approving comments here.

      Please don’t leap to the worst possible conclusion without having all the information available.


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