Thursday, April 24, 2008

Presentation of American Indian Library Association Youth Lit Award

If you're attending the American Library Association's Annual Conference this summer (June 26-July) in Anaheim, get a ticket for the American Indian Library Association's Youth Literature Award presentation. It'll be on Monday, June 30, 5:30 to 7:00. Tickets are $25.

Accepting awards there will be:

Joseph Medicine Crow, for Counting Coup: Becoming a Crow Chief on the Reservation and Beyond

Sherman Alexie, for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Tim Tingle and Jeanne Rorex Bridge, for Crossing Bok Chitto: A Choctaw Tale of Friendship and Freedom

To order tickets, send a check or money order made out to:

Lisa Mitten
32 Stewart Street
New Britain CT 06053

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Van Camp and Leitich Smith at Illinois Youth Literature Festival

Exciting news to share! Two of my favorite Native writers--Cynthia Leitich Smith and Richard Van Camp--will be in Urbana-Champaign October 4th, 2008 for our Youth Literature Festival.

The festival starts on October 2nd, with author visits to schools in the area, and culminates on Saturday, October 4th, with storytelling, puppetry, readings, lectures, book signings, and discussions.

Visit the website for more info!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Beverly Slapin's review of Joseph Bruchac's BUFFALO SONG

Update on Sep 30 2023: I (Debbie Reese) no longer recommend Bruchac's work. For details see Is Joseph Bruchac truly Abenaki?

[Note: This review may not be published elsewhere without written permission of Beverly Slapin.]
Bruchac, Joseph, Buffalo Song, illustrated by Bill Farnsworth. Lee & Low, 2008, preschool-up

For millennia, the great buffalo herds provided material and spiritual sustenance for the Salish and other Indian peoples who inhabited much of North America. This sacred relationship was disrupted time and again, as the Salish were pushed west out of their hunting territories by the better-armed Plains nations, who themselves were pushed out by the eastern tribes, retreating from the expanding United States. As the government’s oppressive policies and overhunting by the encroaching whites combined with a series of epidemics and failing military and political alliances, the effects on the Salish and their beloved buffalo were particularly devastating.

By the 1870s, when Buffalo Song begins, the buffalo are once again scarce and in danger of disappearing. A young Nez Percé boy and his father rescue a buffalo calf whose entire herd has been slaughtered. They bring the little orphan to a Pend d’Oreille man named Sam Walking Coyote, who, with his family, are raising several other buffalo calves. Drawing in good part on oral interviews with Salish elders in the 1920s and ‘30s by the Montana Writers Project, Bruchac weaves together the stories of the boy and his father, the calf and his adopted family, and Walking Coyote and his family’s compassion and dedication that led to the establishment of the Pablo-Allard herd and the eventual restoration of the buffalo. In doing so, he fashions the events of a complex story into a satisfying and accessible picture book that will resonate on many levels with young children.

The preface to Buffalo Song is Bruchac’s recounting of a Salish story told in 1926 about the return of the buffalo. Weaving in and out of historical and mythological time, both the original tale and Bruchac’s reframing of it as a creation story mirror the great struggles for herd restoration from the nineteenth century up to and including the present. Together the two versions become, in fact, a re-creation story about the revitalization of the great herds and an honor song for what the Salish have done.

But few books are perfect. Unfortunately, Farnsworth’s oil-on-canvas paintings, on a palette of mostly greens and earth tones, do not match the literary level of Bruchac’s story. Except in several places, Farnsworth’s buffalo and horses exhibit a far greater range of color, motion and expression than do his Indians. Nevertheless, for all it is and all it says, Buffalo Song is highly recommended.

—Beverly Slapin
Buffalo Song is available from Oyate.