Saturday, July 13, 2019

Should biographies include an author's stereotypical thinking? Case in point: Barnett and Jacoby's THE IMPORTANT THING ABOUT MARGARET WISE BROWN

In May of 2019, Mac Barnett and Sarah Jacoby's picture book biography of Margaret Wise Brown came out from Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins. Titled The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown, it is getting glowing reviews. I haven't seen it yet.

Many people have warm thoughts about Margaret Wise Brown's books. You probably remember Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny. In their book, Barnett and Jacoby tell us that Brown wrote over 100 books.

On page four, they tell us that authors are people who do the things other people do, like falling in love, going to the supermarket, making jokes, and making mistakes. The last line on page four is this:
But which of these things is important? And to whom?
Provocative line, isn't it? It draws from Brown's The Important Book (I think it came out in 1949)When I get Barnett's biography of her, will I see a page about mistakes that Brown made? If yes, what will that page be about? Is it anything to do with the stereotypical content of some of Brown's books?

Here's some examples of that stereotypical content:

In 1954, she wrote a Little Golden Book, titled Little Indian. Richard Scarry did the illustrations. In it, she wrote "The big Indian lived in a big wigwam and the little Indian boy lived in a little wigwam. The big Indian had a big feather in his hair and the little Indian boy had a little feather in his hair."




In 1956, she wrote David's Little Indian. Remy Charlip did the illustrations for it. In it, David finds a real Indian--a little one--in the forest. Here's some words from it: "The boy and his Indian decided to become blood brothers, so they pricked their fingers and let their blood mingle together."



The Kirkus review of David's Little Indian says it is the last book she wrote. She died in 1952. I was, frankly, surprised to see that those two are among the last books she wrote. Her most famous book, Goodnight Moon, came out in 1947. Leonard Marcus wrote a biography of her in 1992. He called it Awakened By the Moon. I wonder if he says anything about those two books? Does Barnett say anything about them? When I get his book, I'll be back.

I titled this post, "Should biographies include an author's stereotypical thinking?" At the moment, I think the answer is yes. What do you think?


Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Recommended: THE GRIZZLY MOTHER and THE SOCKEYE MOTHER written by Hetxw'ms Gyetxw (Brett D. Huson); illustrated by Natasha Donovan

Teachers! Get The Grizzly Mother for your classroom--and ask your librarian to get in on the library shelves, too! Written by Hetxw'ms Gyetxw (Brett D. Huson) and illustrated by Natasha Donovan, it will be released on September 1, 2019 from Highwater Press.



Gyetxw is of the Gitxsan Nation in British Columbia and Donovan is of the Métis Nation of British Columbia. The Grizzly Mother is nonfiction that begins with a section called "Awakening." As you might imagine, the contents of that section are about the grizzly mother and her cubs waking in the springtime. It concludes with "A Final Run" that takes place three years later at a salmon run.

The final page in The Grizzly Mother is about the Gitxsan Nation. I especially like the first sentence. It begins with information about where the Gitxsan Nation is located and also says:
... land that cradles the headwaters of Xsan or "the River of Mist," also known by its colonial name, the Skeena River.
What I mean, of course, is "also known by its colonial name." It provides teachers and parents with the opportunity to teach children that Indigenous peoples were on this land already when Europeans arrived and colonized it. We need that factual information in nonfiction and fiction set in what is currently called North America.

Gyetxw and Donovan worked together on The Sockeye Mother a few years ago. It got starred reviews and high praise from science teachers. See the gold seals on the cover? I anticipate similar praise will be forthcoming for The Grizzly Mother.

Both books include Gitxsan words throughout, and both show the relationship between human beings and animals without romanticizing that relationship or anthropomorphizing the animals.




Over at the Highwater Press web page for the The Sockeye Mother is a video of Gyetxw talking about the Gitxsan words in the book. He says them so that you can learn how to pronounce them when you read the book aloud. The video is also available on Youtube, which means I can insert it here!





I highly recommend The Sockeye Mother and The Grizzly Mother published by Highwater Press. They are pitched at children in grades 5-7 but I think they can be used with younger children. And of course, picture books should be used with people of any age.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Infographic: Diversity in Children's Books 2018

You know that saying: "a picture is worth a thousand words"? We most often associate it with art but it applies to any image. Take a look at the 2018 Diversity Infographic that Dr. Sarah Park Dahlen shared on June 19th, 2019. The infographic displays CCBC's data using the "mirrors" part of the "windows, mirrors, and sliding glass doors" metaphor that Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop developed in 1991:



If you click on the link above you'll go to her page, where you can download the image and use it in your work. I hope you do. This information needs as much visibility as we can give it.

Let's zoom in on the Native kid on the far left:


At the time the infographic was being designed, the Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC) had received and categorized 3,134 books. Of those, 23 had sufficient content to be included on CCBC's list of American Indians/First Nations books. But see the kid's frown? See his mirror? See a piece of it at his feet?

The data shown in the infographic is strictly numerical. It does not capture the quality of books. His frown and the broken mirror convey more than a thousand words.

In recent years I've tried to do a careful study of a specific aspect of the data. For 2018 data, I did a close look at the fiction and picture books published in the US. Every year, it is clear that most Native writers are finding that small publishers are interested in their work. For several reasons (none of them good), the major publishers seem not to care about Native #OwnVoices.

Let's zoom in even further on that data and look at quality of picture books.

In 2018, three picture books by Native writers/illustrators were published in the US. All three are from small publishers:

  • Bowwow Powwow by Brenda Child, illustrated by Jonathan Thunder, and translated by Gordon Jourdain, was published by the Minnesota Historical Society. 
  • We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell, illustrated by Frané Lessac (who is not Native), was published by Charlesbridge.
  • First Laugh--Welcome Baby! by Rose Ann Tahe and Nancy Bo Flood (Flood is not Native), illustrated by Jonathan Nelson, was published by Charlesbridge.


My research sample only had one book picture book in it by a non-Native writer:

  • Tomo Explores the World written and illustrated by Trevor Lai, published by Macmillan.


Now, let's do a comparison. The three by Native writers are doing precisely what we want children's books about Native people to do.

  • They are tribally specific. That means that they depict a specific Native nation. Bowwow Powwow is an Ojibwe story; We Are Grateful:Otsaliheliga is a Cherokee book, and First Laugh--Welcome Baby is about a Navajo family. 
  • They include an Indigenous language. 

Tomo Explores the World does none of that. It is stereotypical in words, ideas, and illustrations. Earlier today I made this image to show what I mean:



#OwnVoices is important. As you're out and about in the coming days, ask for books by Native writers--ask for them at your library and local bookstore, too. When you're there, show the librarian or bookseller the infographic. In short: share what you're learning. Help us provide more books by Native writers.


Thursday, June 20, 2019

Mvskoke poet, Joy Harjo, named as U.S. Poet Laureate (And, #BringBackTheGoodLuckCatByJoyHarjo)

The last twenty-four hours of my social media feeds have been wonderful because so many people are sharing the news that Carla Hayden named Joy Harjo as the U.S. Poet Laureate.

Most news headlines say "Native American" but I'm quick to name her nation, as it appears on her website:
Joy Harjo was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma and is a member of the Mvskoke Nation.
I've written about Joy's work several times. I have many of her books and CD's, but, as you might expect, I focus on her children's books. There are two: The Good Luck Cat and For A Girl Becoming. I especially like The Good Luck Cat because it is about a little girl and her cat, and because it is set in the present day. Here's the cover:



And one of the interior pages:



When I tweeted the news yesterday, I also suggested that people make sure they have The Good Luck Cat. I said they would probably have to get a used copy because it is out of print. I subsequently learned that the few used copies are very expensive.

 I know Joy was trying to get it back into print. So how about asking for it to be brought back into print? Will you join me in that?



Thursday, June 13, 2019

Looking back: The American Indian Youth Literature Award

The American Indian Library Association (AILA) was founded in 1979. If you don't know about it, visit our website. There's a lot of resources there!

I don't recall when I first became a member of AILA. It may have been in the 1990s, or early 2000s. One thing for sure: I was on the committee that drafted the criteria for its Youth Literature Award. I've got emails on an old Dell computer that has been in a drawer for years--that still works! It has emails from 1997-2006. Some of the people who are in those early conversations include Naomi Caldwell, Beverly Slapin, Carlene Engstrom, Victor Schill, Loriene Roy, Susie Hustad, Mahaleni Merryman, Stephanie Betancourt, Elayne Walstedter and me. 

I've not been on the committees that have selected books that win the award, choosing to do the in-depth reviews and work I do here on American Indians in Children's Literature. If you've never been on a book award committee, one thing you need to know: you will need to read a lot of books on specific timelines! Back in the 90s, I think, I was on the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award committee. The boxes of books that arrived at my house, unending! 

I've been looking back at conversations that took place early on, and I'm glad to see that AILA's newsletters have included articles about the award. Here's a brief look back at what AILA did (note: I won't list books that won AIYLA's awards. You can see them by going to the AILA page for the awards.)

The Fall, 2007 association newsletter included an article by Carlene Engstrom that included an image of the first seal. Here's a screen cap:



And here's what it says:
During the 2008 ALA Midwinter meeting in Philadelphia, AILA will announce the 2008 American Indian Youth Literature award winners. The awards will be presented in Anaheim, 2008, during the Annual ALA conference at a gala ticketed event that promises to be memorable. Keep your eyes posted for this event when ALA’s Conference Events come out about information on ordering tickets. 
The award was created as a way to identify and honor the very best writing and illustrations by and about American Indians in the field of children’s literature. It is presented in each of three categories—picture book, middle school, and young adult. 
Naomi Caldwell, chair of the AILA American Indian Youth Literature Award committee, says” We are thrilled to have this opportunity to honor authors and illustrators who best portray American Indian Culture for young readers. The rich literary heritage of this nation includes the oral and printed stories of its indigenous peoples. American Indian literature always has been and continues to be an integral part of our literary tapestry.” 
The first awards were presented during the Joint Conference of Librarians of Color, October 2006. The Picture Book Winner was Beaver Steals Fire by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, Middle School Winner went to Birchbark House, by Louise Erdrich, and the Young Adult Winner was Hidden Roots by Joseph Bruchac. 

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The Winter 2008 newsletter included Naomi Caldwell's article, "A Short History and Promising Future: AILA Youth Literature Awards." There, she wrote that:
  • The people on the committee that chose the 2006 winners were Naomi Caldwell, Victor Schill, Carlene Engstrom, and Gabrielle Kay. 
  • Each 2006 winner received a $500 monetary award and a plaque with the seal, designed by Corwin Clairmont (note: there's a 1993 article about his work in Tribal College.
  • Funds for the plaques were provided by the Mashantucket Pequot Nation. 
  • The committee in 2008 included Caldwell and these individuals: Carlene Engstrom, D’Arcy McNickle Library, Salish Kootenai College; Gabriella Kaye, Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center; Lisa A. Mitten, Choice Magazine; Sarah Kostelecky, Institute of American Indian Art; Cindy Carrywater, Montana State Library Commission; and Jolena Tillequots, School Library Media Specialist, Yakima Nation.
  • Recipients of the 2008 award received the plaque, the monetary award, and a beaded medallion by Linda King (note: if I find a photo of the beaded medallion I'll add it.)
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I love knowing these details! I gotta get some other work done and wanted to share that info before ALA next week. 

Oh! Follow AILA on Facebook. A few minutes ago they posted the new award seals. I'll paste them below. Aren't they gorgeous? And an important note from their FB page: 
If you are going to ALA annual make sure you stop by the ALA store and pick up AILA youth literature award seals for your library. They come in silver and gold and will be $14.50/ 24 pack. Limited quantities available at ALA annual. All proceeds help AILA sustain the awards! Not available online for ordering. Seals are new and were created to celebrate AILA youth literature awards joining the Youth Media Awards in 2020!

Support AILA's work! Buy the seals directly from them.






Thursday, June 06, 2019

Recommended! I CAN MAKE THIS PROMISE by Christine Day

I've read and most definitely recommend I Can Make This Promise by Christine Day. A review is forthcoming. Here's the description:
In her debut middle grade novel—inspired by her family’s history—Christine Day tells the story of a girl who uncovers her family’s secrets—and finds her own Native American identity.
All her life, Edie has known that her mom was adopted by a white couple. So, no matter how curious she might be about her Native American heritage, Edie is sure her family doesn’t have any answers.
Until the day when she and her friends discover a box hidden in the attic—a box full of letters signed “Love, Edith,” and photos of a woman who looks just like her.
Suddenly, Edie has a flurry of new questions about this woman who shares her name. Could she belong to the Native family that Edie never knew about? But if her mom and dad have kept this secret from her all her life, how can she trust them to tell her the truth now?

The cover art by Michaela Goade is stunning!

Day and Goade are Native. The book comes out on October 1st. Order it today!


RECOMMENDED!
AICL is pleased to recommend
I Can Make This Promise



Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Personal news: AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES -- FOR YOUNG PEOPLE

Book cover for Indigenous Peoples History of the United States


On July 13, 2015, I received an invitation to adapt An Indigenous Peoples History of the United States, for young adults. Written by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, I had already spent time with the book and was intrigued with the idea. Originally published by Beacon in 2014, it is packed with information and spans hundreds of years and thousands of miles.

photograph of Jean Mendoza and Debbie Reese
Was it possible, I wondered, to shape it into something that young adults and classroom teachers could use? I responded to the invitation by saying "only if Jean Mendoza can do it with me."

Their answer was yes, and so, we got to work. A little over four years will have lapsed when the book is released on July 23, 2019. We worked several hours almost every day for three years, taking week-long breaks for holidays or vacation, revising the text.

Jean and I are parents but we've also taught schoolchildren, and we taught in teacher education departments at the University of Illinois and elsewhere. We had children, teens, and teachers in mind every step of the way.

"Shall we do a map, here?" and "Maybe we need to add a definition box, right here..." and "Let's add a provocative question box, here!" are some of the things we'd say to each other as we worked.

In a few weeks we'll have finished copies in hand. I can't wait to see the finished book! Right now, we've both got a bound ARC that doesn't have the index and some final revisions in it.

I think we did some really good work. I know we'll be reading it with fresh eyes and groan about something we said or didn't say--that's the nature of writing--and will be keeping track of such things for (we hope) a second or third printing, or an updated version if the book sells well enough.

I've been using Twitter to share some photos I've taken from inside the ARC:


As of today it has gotten starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist. That's cool, but we want to hear from readers. We are especially interested in hearing from Native readers (students, parents, teachers, scholars), especially about passages that have errors or other problems. Let us know! We look forward to hearing from you.

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Back on July 3 to post reviews! 

On April 22, 2019, the book received a star from Kirkus. Here's an excerpt: 
With an eye to the diversity and number of Indigenous nations in America, the volume untangles the many conquerors and victims of the early colonization era and beyond. From the arrival of the first Europeans through to the 21st century, the work tackles subjects as diverse as the Dakota 38, the Ghost Dance and Wounded Knee, the American Indian Movement’s takeover of Alcatraz, and the Dakota Access Pipeline resistance. 
The June 1 issue of Booklist included a starred review. That review appeared online on July 2nd as Booklist's Review of the month. Here's an excerpt:
There is much to commend here: the lack of sugar-coating, the debunking of origin stories, the linking between ideology and actions, the well-placed connections among events past and present, the quotes from British colonizers and American presidents that leave no doubt as to their violent intentions. Built-in prompts call upon readers to reflect and think critically about their own prior knowledge. Terms like “settler” and “civilization” are called into question. Text is broken up by maps, photographs, images by Native artists, propaganda, and primary-source texts that provide more evidence of the depth to which the U.S. economy was—and still is—rooted in the destruction of Indigenous lives. 
The July issue of School Library Journal (if the review is shared online, I'll be back with a link) includes a starred review, too! An excerpt (from the Barnes and Noble website):
Source notes and a recommended list of fiction and nonfiction titles, picture books, and novels by Indigenous authors are in the back matter. VERDICT Dunbar-Ortiz's narrative history is clear, and the adapters give readers ample evidence and perspective to help them to engage with the text. A highly informative book for libraries serving high school students.