My Very First Mother Goose is one of those books that got starred reviews, won some awards, and ended up on a great many recommended-books lists. Here's the cover:
When I saw the book that year, I pointed colleagues to page 60 and 61:
Let's look at those illustrations. On the left side, the text reads "Up the wooden hill to Blanket Fair, What shall we have when we get there? A bucket full of water and A pennyworth of hay. Get up, Dobbie, All the way!" We see a bunny lying down, covered with a blanket. See the designs on the blanket?
Now, look at the illustration beneath the text. There's two bunnies in a cart. To me, they seem kind of affluent, perhaps like tourists out west, going to visit a store, or gallery, or museum, or some place where they will "see the Indians!" and maybe purchase Native-made art.
Now look at that full-page illustration on the right. It is the Indians! Maybe, they're even meant to be Navajos. Anyone 'in the know' about American Indian tapestries would know that the Navajo, or Dine, people are well known for the rugs or blankets they weave.
But if we conclude that the bunnies are meant to signify Navajos, what is that thing that kind of looks like a tipi doing there?! Tipis are not used by Navajos... In short: Wells is stereotyping... big time.
The rhyme (of the blanket fair) has nothing in it about Native peoples. My guess? Rosemary Wells has a Navajo blanket in her home and wanted to depict Native people for this rhyme about a blanket fair. Good intentions fueled by lack of knowledge = stereotypical illustration.
I wonder how parents, teachers, or librarians use that page?
*Updated for clarity and format on August 28, 2016.