Thursday, January 04, 2007

Geraldine McCaughrean's PETER PAN IN SCARLET

A couple of weeks ago, a reader of this blog wrote to me to ask if I’d read Geraldine McCaughrean’s book, Peter Pan in Scarlet, released on October 5 of 2006. It is the much celebrated sequel to J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan which started out in the early 1900s as a short story and then a play.

The original had stereotypical portrayals of American Indians. The Disney film brought those images to the big screen, and that same stereotypical Native imagery is present in the Julie Andrews film, too.

It is surprising (and not) to learn that Native stereotypes are in McCaughrean’s sequel. I got the book, and below are excerpts from the first ten pages. When I finish the book, I’ll follow up. In the meantime, have any of you read the entire book yet? Any comments?
Reese notes on Peter Pan in Scarlet:

1) In the opening pages we learn that John is a grown up and that he’s been dreaming about Neverland. Each morning when he wakes, there is something from Neverland in his bed:

“…an alarm clock, a pirate’s tricorn hat, an Indian head-dress” (page 3).

Reese: "An Indian head-dress" -- of course, the single artifact that stands in to signal Indian.

2) All across London, other “Old Boys” are having the same dreams. Wendy, also now grown, decides they must go back to Neverland to find out why dreams are leaking out of Neverland into the “Here and Now.” The Old Boys say:

“Go back to Neverland? Go back to the mysterious island, with its mermaids, pirates, and redskins?” (page 10).

Reese: The word "redskins." In a children's book, in 2006. Defined in most major dictionaries as offensive, yet here it is.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Allen Sockabasin's THANKS TO THE ANIMALS

My family in New Mexico is among those coping with a huge snowfall. My sister says there's two feet outside her door. They're in northern New Mexico, at Nambe Pueblo. Winter has definitely arrived there, with two huge snowfalls in a week's time. Allan Sockabasin's story sounds perfect for my nieces and nephews. Beverly Slapin's review of Thanks to the Animals is below. It may not be published elsewhere without her written permission.

Sockabasin, Allen (Passamaquoddy), Thanks to the Animals, illustrated by Rebekah Raye. Tillbury House, 2005. Unpaginated, color illustrations; all grades.
Winter arrives, as a Passamaquoddy family prepares for the trip north to the deep woods of Maine, their winter home. Everyone helps as they dismantle their house and tie down the cedar logs and everything else they need—canoe, food, clothing, baskets—on the bobsled, making sure there is enough room for the children to ride in the back. As Papa Joo Tum drives the horses and Mama and the older children settle in for the long ride, nestling together in the warmth of their sealskin coats and patchwork blankets, they don’t notice that little Zoo Sap has tumbled off the sled.
Alerted by Zoo Sap’s cries, the animals of the forest—large and small—come together to keep him warm until Papa Joo Tum comes to get him. Joo Tum thanks the animals, one by one, and carries little Zoo Sap—none the worse for wear—back to his family. This quiet, gentle story is enhanced by the warm, watercolor-and-ink paintings, my favorite of which shows little Zoo Sap contentedly and “safely sleeping in a great pile of warm animals.” Thanks to the Animals, with Passamoquoddy names for the animals in the back, is a perfect bedtime story.
—Beverly Slapin

Sunday, December 31, 2006

"I is not for Indian"

Pointing you, today, to an article linked in my "Articles" list on the right-hand side of this blog.

In 1991, Naomi Caldwell-Wood and Lisa A. Mitten, officers of the American Indian Library Association, published "Selective Bibliography and Guide for "I" IS NOT FOR INDIAN: THE PORTRAYAL OF NATIVE AMERICANS IN BOOKS FOR YOUNG PEOPLE."

Now 15 years old, it is still one of the best articles out there for teachers, parents, librarians and others interested in learning how to look critically at children's books about American Indians.

It includes an annotated list of recommended books and books that should be avoided. It's a short article. It won't take long to read it, but will increase your understanding immeasurably. It is located on the website for the American Indian Library Association.

There's much to learn from the website. Click through the various links.