Editor's Note: Back in 2009, I wrote up a short note about Barbara Cooney's Miss Rumphius. Because the book is on the We Give Books site, I decided to revisit that short post, add to it, and repost a cleaned up version of it here, today:
Barbara Cooney's Miss Rumphius
Though it is much loved and winner of an American Book Award, every time I think of Barbara Cooney's Miss Rumphius, the image that I recall is not the lovely lupines she walks amongst or the landscapes people adore. Instead, I remember this page:
(Source for image: http://theartofchildrenspicturebooks.blogspot.com/2011/03/miss-rumphius.html)
Here's the text for that page:
Now he worked in the shop at the bottom of the house, making figureheads for the prows of ships, and carving Indians out of wood to put in front of cigar stores.
"He" is Cooney's great grandfather. He's the one who carved cigar store Indians. So... what is wrong with that page?
|Source: Oklahoma Historical Society|
Noted Creek writer, Alexander Lawrence Posey, said that the cigar store Indians "are the product of a white mans's factory, and bear no resemblance to the real article." Posey died in 1908.
Is Cooney wrong for including this information in her book? It is factual as Cooney wrote it--carvers of that time period did carve figureheads for ships and wooden Indians, too--but given that Miss Rumphius was published in 1982 and the information about these carvings being stereotypical is quite old, perhaps she could have inserted "stereotypical" in front of "Indians."
If she had done that, the text on that page would be:
"Now he worked in the shop at the bottom of the house, making figureheads for the prows of ships and carving stereotypical Indians out of wood to put in front of cigar stores."
Course, if Cooney did that, the story wouldn't be as charming as it is, but it would be more accurate, and it could prompt teachers, parents, and librarians to address stereotypes whenever they read the book to children. What do you think?