Tuesday, June 01, 2021

Take Action: Contact Scholastic about Clifford's Halloween

This morning as I prep for an event that is framed as a book fair, I started looking for an image of book fairs to remind people that they make choices at fairs. They look carefully. I found a Scholastic Book Fair image that includes several of its more popular characters. One of them is Clifford the Big Red Dog. 

It is the perfect image to make my point. If you go to a Scholastic Book Fair and you see Clifford's Halloween on the table, pick it up. Page through it. What do you see? Newer editions of the book have "An Indian" or "An Indian Chief" in them. 

But, the very first edition, published in 1966, did not have an Indian. Instead, Clifford is shown as a zebra. Why did it get replaced with the Indian image, in 1986?! Scholastic--if you're reading this, can you tell us why that happened? (Screen caps below are from video read-alouds people have shared of them reading the book):

"A zebra" in 1966 edition

"An Indian" in 1986 edition

"An Indian chief" in 2011 edition

Do you have the 1986 or 2011 edition of the book on your home, classroom, or library shelf? 

If it is a personal copy, please send it to Scholastic. Ask them to revert to the zebra page or come up with a new costume for Clifford. And ask them to add a page to the revised book that tells readers they had "An Indian" and "An Indian chief" in their 1986 and 2011 editions. Sometimes, authors (or those who control their estate) decide to remove problematic text or illustrations from their books. A note about the revised content is not included in the book. Librarians write to me to ask for notes about that because it helps them in their collection development. They'd like to remove the problematic version and replace it with the newer one. Such notes can be very helpful! They can show us that people are capable of listening to concerns, and that they take action to incorporate what they've learned. 

If you send your copy of the book to Scholastic, please let me know! If you're comfortable in doing so, use social media to tell others what you're doing. You can use the #StepUpScholastic hashtag. 

Back to add their address:
Scholastic Inc.
557 Broadway
New York, NY 10012-3999

Monday, May 31, 2021

Debbie--have you seen Whitney Sanderson's GOLDEN SUN, (#5 in the Horse Diaries series)?

A reader wrote to ask if I've read Whitney Sanderson's Golden Sun. Published in 2010, it is part of the Horse Diaries series published by Random House Books for Young Readers. The books are historical fiction, told from the point of view of horses.

There are, I think, 16 books in the series. 

#16 is Penny, "a blue-eyed palomino paint" who, with a boy named Jesse, search for gold in California. Gold rush stories are -- to many readers -- exciting. They seem to line up with the "American dream" of success by way of hard work. What is left out or not even considered, is the life of Native peoples whose homelands existed for thousands of years before arrival of Europeans who were seeking riches.  

#3 is Koda, a bay quarter horse who is on the Oregon Trail. Stories about it are also problematic for the same reason that gold rush stories are (they celebrate something that was devastating to Native people, their families, and their homelands). 

I was able to see chapter one of Golden Sun online. Here's the description of the book:
Oregon, 1790 
Golden Sun is a chestnut snowflake Appaloosa. In summer, he treks through the mountains with his rider, a Nez Perce boy named Little Turtle, as he gathers healing plants. But when Little Turtle’s best friend falls ill, Golden Sun discovers his true calling. Here is Golden Sun’s story...in his own words.

And here are some notes as I read chapter one. Notes in regular fond; my comments are in italics.
  • Several words are in italics, which I assume are meant to be from the language Little Turtle's people use. Is there a source note for those words in the back matter? I hope so. I did a quick search for one of the words used ("tawts"). The hits are to the Kaya books in the American Girls series. There is a Nimipuutimt language page online (in video and print) and I see "tá'c" there, pronounced like "tawts." [Note: The book came out in 2010. Today, writers are successfully having words in their language printed in a regular font (not italics). For an explanation why, see Daniel Jose Older's video.]  
  • An older horse told Golden Sun a story about horses who were born in Spain "where the land was hardly visible for all the people and horses and lodges crowded upon it." Describing European lands that way is a technique often used to make the point that it was necessary for Europeans to set out for "the New World" where there was a lot of land that, from a European point of view, was not being used. That idea and imagery is used to justify invasion of Native lands. 
  • Little Turtle uses an obsidian knife to cut some of Golden Sun's hair off. He puts it in his medicine bag. Think of someone using a knife versus using an "obsidian" knife. That word (obsidian) communicates a lot! It sends a "primitive" message that is characteristic of efforts to depict Native peoples as uncivilized. 

Based on what I see in chapter one, I would probably put a "not recommended" tag on this book. If I get a copy, I'll be back. 

Sunday, May 30, 2021

An Open Letter to Anyone Writing or Editing or Reviewing or Using a Children's Book about Crazy Horse

May 30, 2021

Dear Anyone Writing or Editing or Reviewing or Using a Children's Book about Crazy Horse:

This morning I read an email from a teacher who is asking me about Crazy Horse. She is considering a particular book and wondered if it has merit. My library does not have a copy but I can see the first few pages online. The author of the Crazy Horse biography is Anne M. Todd. She is not Native. Chapter one opens with a quote that she attributes to Crazy Horse: 
"It is a good day to fight! A good day to die! Strong hearts, brave hearts, to the front! Weak hearts and cowards to the rear!"
That quote is what prompted this open letter. When I see something like that, I wonder if that person (in this case, Crazy Horse) said those words? And, I wonder about the source for the quote. 

Because I can't see the whole book, I don't know if the quote is sourced in a bibliography or back matter for the book. I find that quote in Stephen Ambrose's book, Crazy Horse and Custer: The Parallel Lives of Two American Warriors, but he doesn't have a source for it either. So... where did it come from? 

I'm asking that people be mindful of quotes attributed to Native people. Quotes can take on a life of their own. When they're not the words the person actually spoke, that's a problem. 

Let's look at a recent example.

When Eric Carle died last week, a photo of a page that people took for an interview with him began circulating--but the "interview" was a joke in an April Fools 2015 issue of The Paris Review. That interview was cited as if it was something Carle wrote. It was cited on social media, and a passage from the joke also appears in Clare Pollard's book, Fierce Bad Rabbits. Avi Naftali pointed out the mistake and The Paris Review subsequently added a note to the top of the original joke. It says:
This piece was published as part of an April Fool's post in 2015, entitled "Introducing The Paris Review for Young Readers." It is a fictional interview, and intended purely as a parody. It is not intended to communicate any true or factual information, and is for entertainment purposes only.
The difference in the Crazy Horse quote and the Carle/not Carle joke is that we don't know the source of the Crazy Horse quote. Or rather--I don't know the source. I'll keep looking. My point, however, is that when something is repeated enough, it becomes taken as fact. To some people, the Carle/not Carle joke felt similar enough to things Carle said that people took the joke as fact. In the Carle/not Carle case, I think that all the players (so to speak) are white. 

With the Crazy Horse case, we supposedly have the words of a Native man but we don't know who recorded them. If it was a Lakota person who heard his words (presumably spoken in Lakota) who recounted them to someone else, that would feel like an authentic presentation of Crazy Horse. 

I've got doubts, though! That famous speech supposedly given by Chief Seattle is one example of what I'm getting at. He spoke some words but they aren't the ones attributed to him in books like Brother Eagle Sister Sky, by Susan Jeffers.

My doubts are affirmed as I read The Journey of Crazy Horse: A Lakota History by Joseph M. Marshall III. He's Lakota. I strongly recommend you get a copy of his book. Read the Introduction and the Reflections. He rejects Ambrose's characterization of Crazy Horse as an "American warrior" in the subtitle of his book and he does not include the quote in his book. Marshall's middle grade book, In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse, is outstanding. Get a copy of it for your classrooms and set aside all the biographies that might be in your classroom or library. It won the American Indian Library Association's Youth Literature Award in 2016

I'll keep looking for the source of the quote. I'm guessing that Anne Todd got it from Ambrose's book. If you find or know the source, let me know! In the meantime, hit your pause buttons when you come across quotes attributed to Native people. Don't be complicit in misattributions. 


Wednesday, May 12, 2021

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! Charles Albert Bender: National Hall of Fame Pitcher


 Charles Albert Bender: National Hall of Fame Pitcher 
Written by Kade Ferris (Turtle Mountain Chippewa and Canadian Metis descent)
Illustrated by Tashia Hart (Red Lake Anishinabe)
Published in 2020
Publisher: Minnesota Humanities Center
Reviewer: Jean Mendoza
Status: Highly Recommended

Biographies of Native sports figures have been few and far between, in my experience. Jim Thorpe and Tom Longboat are two that immediately come to mind. So it feels great to be able to recommend Kade Ferris' middle grade book about the Ojibwe man who invented a special pitch called the slider. 

Charles Albert Bender: National Hall of Fame Pitcher is part of the new series, Minnesota Native American Lives, edited by Gwen Nell Westerman and Heid E. Erdrich. AICL has already reviewed two others, about Peggy Flanagan and Ella Cara Deloria

Charles Bender was born near Brainerd, MN, in 1884. His mother Mary was an Ojibwe woman who cooked for a lumber company, and his father Albertus was a white (German American) lumberjack. After the trees were gone and the lumber company moved on, the family farmed on the White Earth reservation. One of the tasks that fell to Charles was picking up rocks in the field and throwing them out of the way of the plow. After a while, his aim was very good and his throwing arm was powerful. He credited this experience with the foundation of his success as a pitcher.

Charles and some of his siblings attended a boarding school in Pennsylvania for several years. He enjoyed his academic subjects there. When he was finally able to go home, he found living with his family intolerable. The crowded conditions and his father's brutality made him eager to leave again, this time for Carlisle Indian Industrial School. If you've read about Jim Thorpe's life and career, you'll remember that athletics were very important at Carlisle. Charles' talent for pitching caught the attention of Carlisle coach Glenn "Pop" Warner, and Warner eventually persuaded him to join the baseball team. 

Reading both the bio of Ella Cara Deloria and this book may have you pondering life trajectories. Ella Deloria was a multi-talented person who turned to academics amid ambient racism and sexism. Charles Bender, biographer Ferris tells us, also had multiple strengths. A very good student, he was drawn into athletics as a young man, and that world is where he spent much of his adulthood. Like Jim Thorpe, Charles excelled at several sports. He came to love golf and was so good at trapshooting that, in his day, he was nearly as famous for his marksmanship as for his pitching.

After graduating from Carlisle, Charles set aside an opportunity to continue his studies, and went to pitch for a semi-pro team in Harrisburg, PA. A scout for the Philadelphia Athletics noticed Charles' exceptional pitching during an exhibition game against the Chicago Cubs, and told the now-legendary Athletics' manager, Connie Mack, about him. Ferris centers the high and low points of Charles' time in major league baseball, like any biographer writing about a sports figure. For example, he notes that Charles' pitching for the Athletics in the 1911 World Series was hailed as "one of the most impressive feats in baseball" -- "striking out twenty batters in twenty-six innings and only allowing one earned run average in the three games he pitched." The reader can relish hard-won victories along with Charles and his teammates, and feels the sting of set-backs and defeats. The book includes a table of stats for Charles Bender's major league career. 

But Ferris also does not avoid the fact that, like many athletes who were not white, Charles endured racist micro-aggressions and even blatant aggression. There were the seemingly inevitable war whoops from "fans", being nicknamed "Chief" in the press against his firm objections, and sometimes worse. In 1907, he was even refused service and physically thrown out of an evidently whites-only soda shop in Washington DC when he ordered a soft drink. Ferris speculates that Charles did not let these situations "get him down," and he certainly did not let them define him.

The triumphs and tribulations of being an Ojibwe athlete and person in the world are likely to stand out for readers. I enjoyed the ways the author presents what major league baseball was like during its early years -- quite a contrast to today! I can't speak for other readers who are sports fans, but I was interested Charles Bender's life outside of his athletic career. The book mentions his oil paintings, gardening, and love of the natural world, but not (I had to look this up) the fact that he was married for about 50 years to the same woman. I don't see this as a flaw in the book so much as an indicator that this bio leaves the reader wanting to know more, and that's a good thing.

As with the other books in the Minnesota Native American Lives series, Tashia Hart's illustrations augment the text, sometimes poignantly. See how she signals that Charles was retiring -- hanging up his cleats -- on p. 37. At least one illustration includes a subtle nod to Ojibwe identity -- the floral design around the full-length portrait of Charles Bender in action, on p. 23.  

The book includes the same "Extend Your Learning" pages that are part of the other books in this series -- an excellent resource for educators. I sure hope editors Gwen Nell Westerman and Heid E. Erdrich have more of these middle-grade biographies in the works about influential Indigenous people. You can express the same sentiment by buying these books and/or sharing them with students!

Highly Recommended! I SANG YOU DOWN FROM THE STARS, written by Tasha Spillett-Sumner; illustrated by Michaela Goade

I Sang You Down from the Stars
Written by Tasha Spillett-Sumner (Inninewak (Cree) and Trinidadian)
Illustrated by Michaela Goade (Tlingit, member of the Kiks.ådi Clan)
Published in 2021
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Reviewer: Debbie Reese
Status: Highly Recommended


As I sit here at my computer on Wednesday, May 12, 2021 and think about the books that I reviewed last week, I notice that women and children, and grandchildren are at the center of each one. That continues with I Sang You Down From the Stars. With this book, we add a baby. I've written reviews of books about babies before (Richard Van Camp and Julie Flett's We Sang You Home is one) and am delighted to add this one! 

Spillett-Sumner and Goade's book was published on April 6. Right away, it was on the New York Times Bestseller list. Just look at that cover! Isn't it breathtaking? The words and the art in I Sang You Down from the Stars sparkle with warmth and love. 

Stories about family members working together always resonate with me, especially ones about sewing. These reflect our communities in such beautiful ways. Look at this double-paged spread in I Sang You Down from the Stars. On the left, we see people at a table, cutting fabric. We see a child, showing an elder a finished square. That scene tugs on my heart as this family gets ready to welcome a baby into the family and its community (I took this photo outside in the early morning light):

And when the baby is born, we read: 
Family and friends came from near and far to welcome you. 
One by one, they held you and greeted you.
Those words, too, invoke strong memories full of love! Mama's holding little children so they can cradle the new babies! 

Before you read this book to children, take time to read the notes from the author and illustrator. I'm seeing more space being given to authors and illustrators, where they can speak directly to readers about who they are and what they bring to the book. These notes are important! They add depth and tell you things that infuse and shape your reading of the book. 

When I think about "back matter" (that is the information provided after the story itself) that I've read over the decades that I've been doing this work, I realize that I've talked about it in individual reviews but I haven't written an article about that. Hmm. Maybe it is time for that. 

Get a copy of I Sang You Down from the Stars! When you're at your library, ask for it so that others can find and read it, too. And tell your friends and colleagues about it. 

Monday, May 10, 2021

Thinking Critically About Writing Assignments We Ask Children to Do [and a recommendation for TEACHING CRITICALLY ABOUT LEWIS AND CLARK by Schmitke, Sabzalian, and Edmundson]

When we ask children to think (and write) like someone of a different time period, a different culture, a different geographical location, and a different language, what are we giving them in order to do that? Do we have content that can help them do that with the educational integrity that is necessary? In the case of Sacagawea, we have nothing to go on. She left nothing written. All we have is a lot of imaginings of what she thought, and what she said. 

In January of 2019, a photo of a "Lewis and Clark Expedition Diary Entry" assignment went viral. Written by a fifth grader, it was circulating again recently. Several people sent it to me, asking what I thought of it. In the assignment, students are asked to imagine being someone on the expedition. In this case, the fifth grade child imagined herself as Sacagawea. Here's what she wrote on her worksheet:
Dear Diary,

I am so mad! I took 3 annoying men who were very stinky to find the best rout to the Pacific Ocean, found horses, food, and peace so tribes wouldn't attack us! I did that whole journey, but the thing is I did most of the work, not Lewis, or Clark, or my husband! It should have been called the Sacagawea expedition!! I DID THIS ALL WITH A BABY ON MY BACK YET THE MEN DID MORE COMPLAINING!! And I got zero $! Like come on! I'm never doing that again.
My guess is that all of you reading #31DaysIBPOC are aware that men are paid more than women, and that women get little credit for their accomplishments. You've probably taught your students about gender inequities. Clearly, the fifth grader who composed the "Dear Diary" entry had learned about the difference in how men and women are treated. With that in mind, the 5th grader's answer sounds great. That's why it went viral. People think it is clever.

But if we pause to think critically, do you think Sacagawea would have written something like that? Before, during, and after her lifetime, people of Native Nations were and are fighting to protect our homes, gardens, families, and homelands from outsiders who wanted/want Native lands and resources. 

Representations--or, rather, misrepresentations--of Sacagawea are on my mind of late because An-Lon Chen (a parent) wrote to me about Judith Bloom Fradin and Dennis Brindell Fradin's biography of her: Who Was Sacagawea. Chen had been reading it to her child and found herself wondering about its accuracy. We had an email conversation that evolved into a review essay that AICL published on April 23. I'm linking to it here and I want teachers to click through and read her review, especially the section she titled "Erasure." There, she writes about the 1905 Portland World's Fair, and how the National Woman Suffrage Association unveiled the first statue of Sacagawea. [Update on Sunday, May 16, 2021: Chen emailed me this week to say that the 1905 statue was the first major one of Sacagawea. She's found an earlier one, from 1904, done by sculptor Bruno Zimm.]

My point in bringing up Chen's essay? Because I'm thrilled by her critical stance! I want more parents to ask questions. I want educators to welcome their questions, and when necessary, I want us to change what we're doing in the classrooms or spaces where we teach. 

I know--thinking critically is in the news a lot as some parent and teachers object to anti-racist instruction. Changing what we do is hard and sometimes scary, but it is important. We, at American Indians in Children's Literature, are providing book reviews that we hope are helpful to you as you revisit the books you have or teach in your classrooms. We also created Tips for Teachers: Developing Instructional Materials about American Indians. We're here to help and the #31DaysIBPOC series (this is its third year) can help, too. 

On my side table is a copy of Alison Schmitke, Leilani Sabzalian, and Jeff Edmundson's book, Teaching Critically About Lewis and Clark: Challenging Dominant Narratives in K-12 Curriculum. Published this year by Teachers College Press, I highly recommend it! It will help teachers revise what they've been doing when they teach about Lewis and Clark. 

As I bring this post to a close, a warm ku'daa (thank you, in Tewa) to Tricia Ebarvia and Kim Parker for launching #31DaysIBPOC in 2019 and inviting me to participate.  


This blog post is part of the #31DaysIBPOC Blog Series, a month-long movement to feature the voices of Indigenous and teachers of color as writers and scholars. 

Please click here to read the previous blog post by Katie Huang (and be sure to check out the link at the end of each post to catch up on the rest of the blog series). 

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Highly Recommended: MII MAANDA EZHI-GKENDMAANH / THIS IS HOW I KNOW, written by Brittany Luby; illustrated by Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley [and a note about translators]

Mii maanda ezhi-gkendmaanh
This is How I Know
Written by Brittany Luby (Anishinaabe descent)
Illustrated by Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley (Ojibwe, member 
of Wasauksing First Nation)
Translated by Alvin Ted Corbiere and Alan Corbiere (Anishinaabe 
from M'Chigeeng First Nation)
Published in 2021
Publisher: Groundwood Books
Status: Highly Recommended
Reviewer: Debbie Reese (Nambé Owingeh)


Hidden in the dense branches of the spruce tree in my back yard, a mother cardinal sits on a nest. We've peeked in on her and the hatchlings a couple of times, but then I come inside and look online for videos of cardinal nests. Watching videos rather than the nest in our yard gives this cardinal family the safety that my presence must surely interrupt. From afar, I watch as the male and female cardinals fly here and there, gathering food that they then take to the nest. 

I think that a combination of spring flowers, a growing vaccinated population, and the life in that tree are impacting the warmth I feel as I read Mii maanda ezhi-gkendmaanh (This is How I Know). 

"This is how I know" is a refrain that structures Luby and Pawis-Steckley's picture book. On the title page we see the full title, in Anishinaabemowin, and then in English. That ordering of language is on the cover, too, and is what you'll see on every page. 

I want you to notice, on the title page, the names of the translators: Alvin Ted Corbiere, and Alan Corbiere. They are a father and son from M'Chigeeng First Nation. For this and every book, I'd like to see the names of translator's on the cover. Individuals who speak and write an Indigenous language are--for many--more significant than the story a book tells. I don't mean to cast a shadow on this book. I like it very much, as the "Highly Recommended" tag demonstrates. I'm speaking more to book designers who make decisions about what goes where, in books they publish.

During the pandemic, many tribal nations made sure that those who speak their language were among the first to receive Covid vaccines. Though the US and Canadian governments tried very hard to eradicate us in every way, we resisted--and we resist, now. Across tribal nations, language programs are thriving because of people like the Corbiere's who translated this book. So--editors/designers--I hope you'll revisit your treatment of translators. 

Now, back to the book! The Cooperative Children's Book Center at the School of Education, Wisconsin-Madison selected it for their Book of the Week on April 26. 

It begins with these words near the bottom of a page, surrounded by white space:
Aaniish ezhi-gkendmaanh niibing?
How do I know summer is here?
Facing those words is a large illustration of blueberries. Over the next pages, we learn about the things the child and their grandparent see that tell them summer is here. Gorgeously illustrated pages follow. We see Loon, Luna Moth, Bumblebee, Screech Owl, and a stunning sunset with texture and depth. Beneath that sunset, we read:
Mii maanda ezhi-gkendmaanh niibing.
This is how I know summer. 
Turning the page, we're again in a white space as we begin a new section where the child and their grandmother will see the things of fall. And again, for winter, and then for spring. On those pages for spring, there's a seagull and a robin, sitting on the eggs in their nests. 

As I began this review, I recognized the illustrator's name. Two days ago when I wrote about Angeline Boulley's Firekeeper's Daughter, I talked a bit about Sharice Davids and her book, Sharice's Big Voice, due out soon. I mentioned the illustrator for her book. It is the same person who did the illustration's for Mii maanda ezhi-gkendmaanh / This is How I Know. Looking at their website, I see outstanding work that has a lot more detail than I see in this book and wonder about the decisions that went into these. Take a look at his site! 

Order a copy of Mii maanda ezhi-gkendmaanh / This is How I Know for your classroom and library, and ask for it at your local bookstore and public library. 

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Highly Recommended: JOSIE DANCES, written by Denise Lajimodiere; illustrated by Angela Erdrich

Josie Dances 
written by Denise Lajimodiere (Citizen, Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe)
illustrated by Dr. Angela Erdrich (Citizen, Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe)
Published in 2021
Publisher: Minnesota Historical Society Press
Status: Highly Recommended
Reviewer: Debbie Reese (Nambé Owingeh)


I'll just say it: I love Josie Dances. That sense of love that readers experience with some books, is where I'll start. Why, I wonder, does this book give me that feeling? 

As I turn the pages to try to figure that out, I think it is the same things that I noted yesterday (May 3) in my review of Angeline Boulley's Firekeeper's Daughter. Those things: community, and women. Specifically, Native community, and Native women. To be precise: Ojibwe community, and Ojibwe women! 

Here's the description of Josie Dances from the publisher: 

Josie dreams of dancing at next summer’s powwow. But first she needs many special things: a dress, a shawl, a cape, leggings, moccasins, and, perhaps most important of all, her spirit name. To gather all these essential pieces, she calls on her mom, her aunty, her kookum, and Grandma Greatwalker. They have the skills to prepare Josie for her powwow debut.

As the months go by, Josie practices her dance steps while Mom stitches, Aunty and Kookum bead, and Grandma Greatwalker dreams Josie’s spirit name. Josie is nervous about her performance in the arena and about all the pieces falling into place, but she knows her family is there to support her.

The powwow circle is a welcoming space, and dancers and spectators alike celebrate Josie’s first dance. When she receives her name, she knows it’s just right. Wrapped in the love of her community, Josie dances to honor her ancestors.

In this Ojibwe girl’s coming-of-age story, Denise Lajimodiere highlights her own daughter’s experience at powwow. Elegant artwork by Angela Erdrich features not only Josie and her family but also the animals and seasons and heartbeat of Aki, Mother Earth, and the traditions that link Josie to generations past and yet to come.

As I sit here and read through the book again, I pause at what is (at the moment) my favorite page:

I carry memories of my grandmother sewing traditional clothes for us to wear for our dances at Nambé. She had an old sewing machine that was powered by her feet pushing a large pedal that made her machine work. Fascinated with the process, I asked her if I could try it. It isn't a clear memory but it seems she told me something like "this is not like your mom's sewing machine." She was right about that. My mom's sewing machine looked like the one in Josie Dances. She, too, sewed our traditional and everyday clothes. I sew them, too. And so does my daughter. She's made traditional dresses for her cousin's little girls. 

Josie and her family spend a year getting ready for her to dance. With each page turn, readers move through the seasons with them. Early in the book, we see the moccasins that Josie will wear--but without beads. On the page with the sewing machine, it is winter and we see the moccasins partially beaded. Turning the page we see Grandmother Greatwalker asleep (and covered with a beautiful quilt!), dreaming. Josie's name will come to her, in a dream. The next page shows us Josie and her mother picking spring berries. Then... it is time for the powwow and we shift from a seasonal framework to one that takes place over a day and night. First, we see people in t-shirts and shorts at the site where the powwow will be. Josie is wondering if she'll be dancing, after all. We see her in a night scene, lying down in a bedroll in her tent. Did all her clothing get finished? Did Grandmother Greatwalker dream of her name? She wakes the next day with messy hair. Glancing to the trees nearby, she sees an eagle. The answer to all her questions is yes, and it is conveyed quietly on this page:


With each year, I see more and more children's books with Native words in them. That's part of why I'm highly recommending Josie Dances. When Josie asks her mom to help her, her mom replies "Eya, nindaanis!" The glossary tells us that means "Yes, my daughter!" We have that same sentence structure several times. Josie asks her aunty if she will bead her cape; her aunty replies "Eya, ikwezens!" Josie asks her kookum (grandmother) if she'll make her moccasins and leggings, and she replies "Eya, noozhishenh!" And she asks a tribal elder (Grandmother Greatwalker) about her name, and hears "Eya, abinoojinh!" Lajimodiere's writing teaches us all a few Ojibwe words--and that's a terrific part of what we are offered in this picture book. 

I think what I'm trying to get at is this: the story given to us by Denise Lajimodiere and Angela Erdrich -- both, citizens of the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe -- is so real, and so full of Native life and love. 

Denise Lajimodiere

Angela Erdrich

Josie Dances is published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press. They've done several books that I highly recommend, including Marcie Rendon's Powwow Summer, Cheryl Minnema's Hungry Johnny, Thomas Peacock's The Forever Sky, Art Coulson's The Creator's Game, and Brenda Child's Bowwow Powwow. If you don't have those yet, get them when you order copies of Josie Dances.