Friday, January 26, 2007

Pamela Porter's Sky

[This review used by permission of its author, Beverly Slapin. It may not be published elsewhere without her written permission.]


Porter, Pamela, Sky, illustrated by Mary Jane Gerber. Groundwood, 2004. 83 pages, b/w illustrations, grades 4-6

It is 1964. Eleven-year-old Georgia Salois lives with her Paw Paw and Gramma, “high in the scrub pines” on the edge of the Blackfeet reservation in northern Montana. Suddenly, on March 26, violent rainstorms overflow Birch Creek, destroying the Swift Dam and killing a number of people. The devastating floods take everything—the house, the barn, the livestock; nothing is left except the clothes on their backs, the washtub, a few blankets.

And—miraculously—a foal, whom Georgia names Sky.

Told in Georgia’s honest, open, child voice, the survival of her family and community becomes real. There is no complaining, no asking why; they accept what has happened and move on, rebuild. Georgia’s relationship with her grandparents, the economy of subsistence, the racism they encounter—all of it is real, told in Georgia’s matter-of-fact voice.

“The sheriff led us into the gym where the people who weren’t Indian were lying on cots with pillows and blankets on them,” she says. Unlike the white people who are fed for free, they are charged for the food and charged again for use of the plates and utensils, so “none of us at the Indian table even tried going back for seconds.”

Sky is based on the stories told to the author by her friend Georgia Salois. It is highly unusual for a non-Native author of children’s books to refrain from the need to “teach” something about Indians. Porter is highly unusual. It isn’t until page 58 that Georgia even mentions that she is Cree, and that is as it should be. And Georgia’s dialect—which Porter gets right, too—is engaging. —Beverly Slapin

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