Saturday, August 28, 2010

To date: Most popular page at American Indians in Children's Literature...

On August 8, 2010, I created a video using Google's "Search Story" program. Since then, it has become the most popular page on my site, and, it appears on a lot of other sites, too.  I'm reposting it here today.

The books I featured are:

The People Shall Continue, by Simon Ortiz. I chose that because that book embodies our perseverance (by our, I mean indigenous people) in the face of a 400+ year history of warfare. It is a perseverance that includes all peoples who stand together in the face of adversity and persecution.

Jingle Dancer, by Cynthia Leitich Smith. This is second in my line-up because in the text and illustrations, readers can see the joy and vibrancy of our present-day lives---a joy and vibrancy I feel when I'm home at Nambe, dancing or helping my daughter or my nieces and nephews get ready to dance.

Hidden Roots, by Joseph Bruchac was next because in it, readers get a powerful look at just one of those moments in history when laws were passed to get rid of us.... this one was sterilization programs in Vermont in the 1930s Note from Debbie in Jan of 2024: I no longer recommend Bruchac's books. For details, see: Is Joseph Bruchac really Abenaki?

Last is Birchbark House, by Louise Erdrich.  In this, the first of several books about Omakayas, a young Ojibwe girl, readers gain a Native perspective on the effects of Europeans moving on to homelands of Native peoples. Unlike the way that Laura Ingalls Wilder portrayed 'other' to her characters, Erdrich doesn't dehumanize other to the characters in Birchbark House.

The soundtrack I used was one of a small set of options. The music has that excitement I feel when I'm reading and writing about books that I cherish.  I'm happy to know its getting a lot of traffic, and I hope it is helping people find my site, and increasing their ability to look critically when selecting children's books.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Audio: Tim Tingle reading from SALTYPIE

A few minutes ago, I was reading Cynsations and found out that Teaching Books has an audio of Tim Tingle talking about, and then reading from his newest book, Saltypie. Click on over and listen to it. And get his book, too!

The photo here is also from Cynsations

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Rosemary Wells illustration in MY VERY FIRST MOTHER GOOSE

In 1996, Iona Opie edited a collection of Mother Goose rhymes. The title of the book is My Very First Mother Goose. Illustrations are by Rosemary Wells. For the most part, I really like her work. Some books by her are among our family favorites.

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.