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 It may not be published elsewhere without her written permission.]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

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


According to the January 29, 2007 edition of Newsweek, the acclaimed Little House on the Prairie series is getting a makeover. For the 75th anniversary of the books, illustrations are being replaced with "photos of models as Laura" instead of the illustrations by Garth Williams.

Interesting, and makes me wonder the publishers will do (already did?) with the illustrations of American Indians? There are many. Are they keeping those? Or will they simply replicate them, in photo format? Will they use American Indian models? Will they make changes to the ways the Indians are shown so that they are accurate--more accurate than the illustrations done by William?

Diane Roback of Publisher's Weekly is quoted as saying these changes are occurring to appeal to readers of today who are more likely to pick up and read a book with Dakota Fanning on the cover of Charlotte's Web (she's in the new movie version of Charlotte's Web). This makes me wonder, again, about what the Little House publisher will do with the illustrations of American Indians? Retain the savage imagery that Americans love? I'd guess so, if they are making changes according to what the public will buy.

We will see.