Sunday, August 20, 2006

A Review of Ruth Bornstein's BRAVE BUNNY

[Note: Beverly Slapin at Oyate compared Indian Bunny and Brave Bunny (for background see the blog post on August 14, 2006). She sent her review to me. With her permission, I'm posting it below. Her review may not be published elsewhere without her written permission. Remember to visit the Oyate site to order children's books about American Indians. And if you want more of their reviews, you won't regret getting Oyate's Through Indian Eyes: The Native Experience in Books for Children, and A Broken Flute: The Native Experience in Books for Children. --Debbie]


In 1973, Golden Gate Junior Books published Ruth Bornstein's little book, INDIAN BUNNY. In the same year, it was picked up by Scholastic, "by arrangement with Children's Press." Bornstein dedicated INDIAN BUNNY "to Noah, Jonah, Adam, and Jesse," whom we can presume to be her children. Here is the entire text of INDIAN BUNNY:

One day a bunny said,
Good-by, I'm going to be an Indian.
I'll follow the stream
And I'll walk along a hidden forest trail
—so silently
that not even the deer will hear me.
In the stream I'll find a tadpole
and he'll tell me how he turns into a frog.
I'll come to a meadow
and do a deer dance when the sun is high.
I'll climb a tree
and look far out.
An eagle will come to his nest,
so I'll hide in my friend the Owl's house
and watch him.
I'll climb down and find a feather the eagle
has floated down to me.
Then I'll follow the hidden trail
to the place where the animals meet.
and I'll watch them.
And when the sun is low
I'll silently steal away.
I'll gather round stones
to mark a place.
And I'll rub two sticks together
to make a fire.
I'll sit by my fire.
Maybe I'll hear the drums far off—
And I'll beat my drum in the night.
My friend the Owl will hear me.
And when the moon is high
and I crawl into my tepee,
my friend will fly over to say,
Sweet dreams.

That's all of it. A quiet, gently told tale with soft cadence; perfect to read in a dim light to little kids warmly tucked in bed. A sweet little goodnight story for the littlest kids to fall asleep to. Except that it's racist in its inception and imagery. A little bunny goes off and plays Indian, doing all the things that "Indians" do in the imaginations of non-Indian kids and their parents.

In 2003 (thirty years later), Gibbs Smith Publisher morphed INDIAN BUNNY into BRAVE BUNNY. Ruth Lercher Bornstein dedicated BRAVE BUNNY to "Jacob, Gabriel, Joseph, Rebekah, Kalia, and Olivia," whom we can presume to be her grandchildren. According to the publisher, BRAVE BUNNY was edited by Jennifer Grillone. The CIP summary: "A bunny decides that it is time to go into the world to meet and learn from other animals, especially his friend Owl."

So what kind of editing was done? The second line and the last line.

One day a bunny said,
Good-by, I'm going out into the world.

And when the moon is high
and I crawl into my tepee,
my friend will fly over to say,
Good night, Brave Bunny.

Some green and blue tint was added to the pictures. That's all. "Brave Bunny" is still sneaking around, wearing a feather, doing a "deer dance," rubbing two sticks together to make a fire, beating a drum, and going to sleep in his "tepee." I wonder how much Jennifer Grillone was paid for her "editing," and who thought it was a good idea to bring this offensive little book back into print.—Beverly Slapin

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