Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Native girl in Piper's LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD

Earlier today a colleague (thanks for the tip, Robert) asked me what I think of the new illustrations for Watty Piper's The Little Engine That Could. Specifically, he wondered about Long's addition of a Native doll (a girl wearing buckskin). That doll isn't in the 1954 edition with the Hauman illustrations. I went by our local library to get a copy, but that edition is checked out. The older one is on the shelf. The librarian looked to see if there was a copy in Champaign (Urbana and Champaign are twin cities, each with its own library). That one, too, was checked out. Apparently this new edition is popular!

I visited Long's website, where you can see one of the pages with the Native girl. As most people know, the illustrations in the story (and this one, too) are of toys that are on the train. I have many questions about why Long included this Native doll. Did he replace one of the other dolls? The one with blonde ringlets? Or, the one with brown hair and a yellow ribbon?

Does Long have a daughter? Does she have "Native American Barbie" or "Kaya" dolls? Or, was Long trying to bring a multicultural touch to his version of this story? Did he include other dolls, meant to represent other ethnicities? Maybe Long is aware of the popularity of Indian in the Cupboard and the idea of Indians as toys, and wanted to add that dimension?

Including Native characters in children's books is important. However! Children, Native or not, need books that portray Native peoples as people, not toys!

Update, December 22, 2015

Here's a screen capture of one page with that doll:

And here's a page of interesting background information on that story:
In Search of Watty Piper

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am Comanche, I make dolls of my tribe and cradles an anything for children, I think this is a start, I love the little Indian Doll standing among all the other toys, simply love it.

I heartily agree with you that the real people need to be learned, however the Indian children of long ago had their toys too.

Have you ever read the story of the "Bluebonnet" by Tommie DePaola, its a sweet story of a little girl giving up her most prized possession her dead parents made her, a doll, to save her village and its people.