Gerald McDermott’s Arrow to the Sun won the prestigious Caldecott Medal in 1978.
Awarded annually by the American Library Association, the Caldecott Medal is given to the most distinguished American picture book for children published in the
Its popularity and acclaim aside, Arrow to the Sun has many problems. For
I think most teachers, prepping to use this book, would know that kivas are not scary places, but more like a church or temple. Hopefully, that teacher will pause as she reads the story, to tell her students that McDermott’s representation of a kiva is wrong. Fortunately for her students, they will have had a valuable experience, as they learn to question the books they read, no matter how popular they may be. Course, it is award-winning because the people who selected the book, and the reviewers who gave it a favorable review don't know much, if anything, about Pueblo culture!
Course, it is award-winning because the people who selected the book, and the reviewers who gave it a favorable review don't know much, if anything, about Pueblo culture!
What if the teacher does not know anything about
If one of her students should visit a pueblo on a vacation, he or she might express fear upon seeing a kiva.
And, what about Pueblo Indian children in this or any classroom where the book is used?
They, too, are harmed, but in a different way. Most likely, they know the story is wrong. How might they grapple with the error? Will they challenge or question the teacher, who is an authority figure they’ve been taught to respect? How might they feel, when asked to participate in a small group discussion on “how do you think the protagonist felt going into the kiva?” Will the child be distracted and unable to focus on school assignments in general?
Another problematic area of Arrow to the Sun is the status of the protagonist. In the story, the protagonist is mocked and chased away by other boys in the pueblo who say to him “Where is your father?” and “You have no father.” This conflict is the impetus for the boy’s journey to the sun. However, the conflict is one that does not reflect
If there is a copy of Arrow to the Sun in your school or classroom library, read it, and think about what I’ve shared here. I know some will reject what I’ve said as unimportant. It is, after all, a great story, but I hope others will reconsider using that book as “a great story” and use it as a tool in educating children about how authors and illustrators can get things wrong.