In October, I received an email from a pre-service student in Nebraska. She asked me to help her get word out about a book she came across in a local bookstore. Below is her letter. By design, I only include illustrations on this blog that I like to look at, that are well-done, accurate, etc. Illustrations that are racist go on my other blog. I will talk about problematic books, but don't give their illustrations/covers any space here. To see the illustrations in Chief Hawah, click here.
October 8, 2007
To: Marion Boyars Publishers
24 Lacy Road
Cc: Meryl Zegarek, Public Relations, Marion Boyars Publishers
Barnes and Noble, Inc.
RE: Chief Hawah’s book of Native American Indians, Illustrated by Chris Brown, Marion Boyars Publishers, copyright September 2006.
Dear Sir and/or Madam:
The purpose of this letter is to inform you of a book you are publishing and/or selling is highly offensive to Americans and specifically Native American peoples. As a pre-service teacher, I stumbled upon Chief Hawah’s Book of Native American Indians, Illustrated by Chris Brown. The cover illustration alone would tell any 21st century American this is a book that should never have been published. It is filled with stereotypes and false and/or inaccurate information.
I found it in Borders Books on a trip to find a Multi-Cultural picture book for my Children’s Literature class at the
I went home and searched the Web to find it is also sold at Barnes and Noble, Amazon.com, Alibris.com, and many, many more booksellers. After reading the publisher’s synopsis at www.marionboyars.co.uk, I felt nauseous. Children will learn nothing from this book except that perpetuating old stereotypes is apparently is still in fashion in the
My copy of Chief Hawah is undergoing a Kym Johnson Rutledge Do-Over. I am having all of the incorrect information, corrected. I’m using several different people from several different tribes to correct it in a page-by-page style. When complete, I will have a lovely flip-out book to use as an EXAMPLE of the horrifying STEREOTYPES that still plague our world. Specific images and carefully selected examples the writer and illustrator both selected to use in order to depict the First People of the United States as savages, poor parents, believers of witch-craft, etc., will also be incorporated in my flip-out version of the book so that I may educate my students of the extent people will go to in order to make money. It will be used to show others what a seed of racism looks like.
Finding Chris Brown had used nearly the same graphic in his other children’s book, Shiver Me Timbers!: A Fun Book of Pirates, was an amazing moment for me as I am an artist; I’m a well-educated painter holding a BFA. Brown chose to use the image he created to depict a Pirate, an unlawful, crime-seeking, monstrous-type of ancient character, to have the exact same look as the fictional character he created to represent this Native American book, Chief Hawah. That is absolutely PATHETIC to relate the two images for children. Historically, pirates probably elicited a lot of fear when honest seafarers came in contact with them. Do you think the people of the
The words of the book are equally as disturbing as the illustrations, since nearly every page has inaccuracies or misleading information written in inflammatory and sensationalized style. The back cover lists the name of Rebecca Gillieron as the person responsible for these words.
You should be ashamed of what you have presented as educational to the CHILDREN of the world and specifically our children of the
Native Americans are not now, nor have ever been, SAVAGES. Yet, you have visually depicted them that way. Native Americans are not one giant clump of dead people from the past. For every tribe, past and present, there is a different culture.
- To you
Boyars Publishing… Get it right or don’t print it. Marion
- To you Booksellers… at the very least, get this edition OFF YOUR SHELVES and OUT OF YOUR INVENTORY, RIGHT NOW.
- To you Chris Brown and Rebecca Gillieron... shame on your lack of knowledge. If you would like to come to the States and meet real Native Americans, I invite you. It would be a pleasure to show you what Native Americans are really like. I humbly extend my invitation to you to come to
and stay in my home for a visit. Here on the Plains you will have to opportunity to learn much from many of my good and knowledgeable friends. The book you could illustrate and write as a result of a visit would be one with completely different images and correct information, which would be something you could feel pride in; instead of the shame this book has brought on you. Omaha, Nebraska
Kym Johnson Rutledge
Pre-Service Teacher and
Daughter of Mary Strain (
Granddaughter of Violet Johnson (Cherokee)
Granddaughter of Olive Strain (
Great-granddaughter of Mun-go-ze-quoh (