Friday, May 01, 2009

Barbara Cooney's MISS RUMPHIUS

Though it is much loved and winner of an American Book Award, every time I think of Barbara Cooney's Miss Rumphius, the image that I recall is not the lovely lupines she walks amongst... Instead, I remember the page with three Indians. Did you see them?

Update: Try really hard to remember them... and if you can't, I've uploaded the page at my Images site.

Here's the image (added to AICL on September 20, 2012, 9:40 AM CST):

(Source for image:

And, here's the text for that page (also added on Sept 20, 2012):

Now he worked in the shop at the bottom of the house, making figureheads for the prows of ships, and carving Indians out of wood to put in front of cigar stores.
Source: Oklahoma Historical Society
Noted Creek writer, Alexander Lawrence Posey, said that the cigar store Indians "are the product of a white mans's factory, and bear no resemblance to the real article." Posey died in 1908. Is Cooney wrong for including this information in her book? It is factual as Cooney wrote it--carvers of that time period did carve figureheads for ships and wooden Indians, too--but given that Miss Rumphius was published in 1982 and the information about these carvings being stereotypical is quite old, perhaps she could have inserted "stereotypical" in front of "Indians." If she had done that, it would read:

"Now he worked in the shop at the bottom of the house, making figureheads for the prows of ships and carving stereotypical Indians out of wood to put in front of cigar stores."

Course, if she did that, the story wouldn't be as charming, but it would be more accurate, and it could prompt teachers, parents, and librarians to address stereotypes whenever they read the book to children.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


The National Museum of the American Indian has published some excellent books. Sometime back I wrote about their Do All Indians Live in Tipis?

Today I point you to another one. When the Rain Sings is a book of poems written by young Native people from several tribal nations: Ojibwe, Lakota, Omaha, Navajo, Cochiti/Kiowa, O'odham, Yaqui, Hopi, and Ute. When the Rain Sings was first published in 1999. The story behind the book is included in this new edition, which is dedicated to Lee Francis, the founding director of Wordcraft Circle. Through the committed work of Lee Francis and others, we've got more Native writers than ever before.

Most of the poems in When the Rain Sings are paired with an item at the museum. Rainbird Winters' poem "Manido Mashkimod (Spirit Bag)" is about bandolier bags. Alongside it is an Ojibwe bandolier bag.

Teachers who use the book will find the teaching guide helpful. It is on the "Ideas for the Classroom" page created by NMAI. There you can see three of the poems in the book. The book is available from NMAI for $14.95.

As I write about When the Rain Sings, sitting in my house in Illinois, listening to the rain on this cool spring morning, I wish I was home at Nambe. There, the rain has a delicious smell...