Sunday, April 03, 2011

Dear Mr. Goble: Questions for Paul Goble about THE GIRL WHO LOVED WILD HORSES

Paul Goble's The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses was published in 1978. It won the prestigious Caldecott Medal.

Due to the popularity of his style, and the Caldecott, too, The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses has been printed and reprinted lots of times. The copy I'm looking at right now (dated 2001) indicates I have one that was in the 12th reprinting.

As we saw in the discussion of Robert Lawson's They Were Strong and Good, books can be revised, with problematic language removed in the process.

I'm wondering if Paul Goble or an editor at Simon & Schuster might do some revising of The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses?

Well---maybe not revising, but an addition to the book. By that, I mean information about the story itself. I mean a source note!

Let's look at his book, using criteria developed by Betsy Hearne in her "Cite the Source: Reducing Cultural Chaos in Picture Books, Part 1" article. It was published in 1993 in School Library Journal. Betsy called her criteria "A Source Note Countdown."

Before I start, I'll say I find the book as problematic as the other "Native" book that won the Caldecott in the 70's: Gerald McDermott's Arrow to the Sun. The subtitle for McDermott's book is A Pueblo Tale. There are nineteen different pueblos... which one does he mean? Does he think we're all the same? What is the source for the story he tells? Does McDermott know that the pueblos in the northern, mountainous part of New Mexico are not the same as the ones located in more southern areas of the state, where the geography is not as mountainous? There are significant differences, in fact, even within a single pueblo, from one society or clan to the next one...  Without providing a source, McDermott introduces the chaos Betsy points to by being non-specific. An elementary school teacher who chooses to use his book to supplement teaching about Pueblos people heads down a rather risky road...

Course, his book---and Goble's, too---were written in the 1970s...  Because of that, some might argue that it isn't fair to judge them by today's standards. Still, given their status as Caldecott books, maybe we can ask them to be updated with a solid source note...

In her source note countdown, Betsy writes about five ways an author can acknowledge his or her sources. Worst case is #5, "The nonexistent source note." Next is #4, "The background-as-source-note." Number 3 is "The fine-print source note." At #2 is "The well-made source note." And the best note, #1, is "The model source note."

In Betsy's countdown, the worst note is "the nonexistent source note."  In this case, the subtitle or jacket copy makes a vague claim that is, as Betsy writes, "faithfully picked up and authoritatively echoed in the Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication statement." To the right is the cover of The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses. No subtitle. The text on the jacket book flap, however, says "In simple words and brilliant paintings that sweep and stampede across his pages, Paul Goble tells of a Native American girl's love of horses."  And here's the CIP info:
Summary: Though she is fond of her people, a girl prefers to live among the wild horses where she is truly happy and free. [1. Fairy tales. 2. Indians of North America-Fiction. 3. Horses-Fiction] 
I'm guessing the Library of Congress cataloger used the jacket copy to assign the book its 2nd category (Indians of North America-Fiction). There isn't an author or source note anywhere in the book. The only information we are given is the Library of Congress summary. No "background as source note" or "fine-print source note" or "well-made" or "model" note. In interviews, Goble says he does extensive research. So...

April 3, 2011 

Dear Mr. Goble, 

Can you tell your editor at Simon and Schuster that you'd like to add a well-made source note to this book? One that tell us the specific source (or sources) you used to tell this story? Can you give us a description of the cultural context in which this story was/is told? And, can you tell us what you've done to change it, and why you've changed it as you did (if you did)? 

Debbie Reese

(I'll send this on to Simon and Schuster, and to Mr. Goble, too, if I can find a way to contact him. I'll let you know if I hear back from either one.)

Update, June 11, 2014:
I did receive a reply to my letter. In it, Mr. Goble said that I could not quote him. The gist of his short letter is that publishers cannot afford to add pages like the one I requested. I find that answer curious because his later books include that information.

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