Saturday, July 01, 2006

In "comments" to my previous post, Opal noted that American Indians get short shrift in history classes, in part due to state standards that too often overlook this important part of America's history.

For any history teachers reading the blog, here are a couple of resources you can use to locate reliable information about American Indian history and culture.

The People: A History of Native America, by R. David Edmunds, Frederick E. Hoxie, and Neal Salisbury. This is a brand new textbook that can be used in high school or college classrooms. It is published by Houghton Mifflin.

Second are two encyclopedias:
Encyclopedia of North American Indians (1996), edited by Frederick E. Hoxie, and Native America in the Twentieth Century: An Encyclopedia (1996), edited by Mary B. Davis. Both editors relied heavily (and wisely) on American Indian scholars to serve as advisors, and to write entries, too.
Note on page design: When I started this blog, I used white text on black background because web-design books said that is easier on the eyes. But, I've decided I like the crisp feeling of white background, so I'm making some changes to the template. I may goof things up as I do this, so please bear with me!

Two readers have written to ask about two different books, wondering if I've read them, or know of any critical reviews of them. The two are Indian Captive by Lois Lensky, and When the Legends Die, by Hal Borland.

It is likely that I read both as a kid, but don't have a clear memory of either one. I do have a copy of Indian Captive, but haven't read it yet. Neither book is reviewed in A Broken Flute, but they may be in Through Indian Eyes: The Native Experience in Books for Children . My copy is at my campus office, and I'm working from home right now. Perhaps a reader who has a copy handy can use the "comments" option and tell us if either book is reviewed in Through Indian Eyes.

There are a couple of other on-line resources with reviews of children's books about American Indians. Here's links to them:

Native American Books

"A Critical Bibliography on North American Indians for K-12," on the Smithsonian website. It is pretty extensive, and is arranged by geographical area.
Exciting news! The Before Columbus Foundation has selected A Broken Flute: The Native Experience in Books for Children to receive a 2006 American Book Award. Go here for details about the book:

A Broken Flute includes a short essay written by my daughter when she was in the 3rd grade. It recounts her experience when her reading group started to read Caddie Woodlawn.

Some people feel the book is too expensive ($50), but I don't think you can find the depth and breadth and expertise it contains anywhere else. To get what it contains elsewhere, you'd have to spend hours and hours looking for articles, reviews, chapters. In that sense, this is a huge bargain. It has hundreds of reviews of books about American Indians---reviews written by people with knowledge and expertise about American Indians, much of it based on lived experience.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Full Text Article: Examining Multicultural Picture Books for the Early Childhood Classroom

One of the best articles I worked on is "Examining Multicultural Picture Books for the Early Childhood Classroom: Possibilities and Pitfalls." It was published by Early Childhood Research and Practice, an on-line journal that publishes its articles in English and Spanish. As the journal title suggests, the articles in the journal are about working with young children. Our article has been republished in several edited volumes about early childhood education.

The article is by my dear friend, Jean Mendoza, and myself. The first portion of the article provides background info on children's literature and education of young children. Later in the article, we discuss some popular books and authors, including:

Brother Eagle Sister Sky, by Susan Jeffers

Arrow to the Sun, by Gerald McDermott

Knots on a Counting Rope, by Bill Martin and John Archambault

A Day's Work, by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Ronald Himler

A Gift from Papa Diego, by Benjamin Alire Saenz, illustrated by Geronimo Garcia

Jingle Dancer, by Cynthia Leitich Smith, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu.

It is a meaty article, packed with good information for anyone interested in children's books and education.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

In March of this year, I submitted an article for publication, in which I said that most books about American Indians are set in the past, not present. The reviewer questioned my statement, suggesting that there has been a lot of change in recent decades, and that my statement was outdated.

To see if my perception was accurate, I went to the Children's Literature Comprehensive Database, which includes over 1,200,000 records and over 220,000 reviews from 34 different sources such as KIRKUS, HORN BOOK GUIDE, and Booklist. I searched the database, using the terms "American Indians" and "Native Americans" and I limited the search to works of fiction published in 2000. My search returned 42 titles; seven are set in the present day; the remaining 36 are historical fiction.

I don't know what the data looks like for fiction overall. Generally speaking, are more works of historical fiction published than works of realistic or modern fiction? Is it at this same ratio (7:36)? What about works of fiction about other US minorities? If I did the search using African Americans as my search term, what would I find?

If readers of the blog know of articles that include these statistics, please let us know.