Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Books to get (& avoid) from the We Need Diverse Books/Scholastic Reading Club collaboration

A few weeks ago, Scholastic and We Need Diverse Books announced a Special Edition of the Scholastic Reading Club program.

You know what I'm talking about, right? You remember your teacher handing out those book club flyers? You remember poring over the options, deciding which ones you'd get? And then the joy when they arrived!

I was on both ends of that program. As a kid, I got books that way, and as an elementary school teacher, my students got books that way, too.

Like anyone, Scholastic has an uneven track record in terms of the books they publish. Some are great, some are not.

When I saw the first page of the flyer for this collaboration between Scholastic and We Need Diverse Books, my first thought was "Oh no! Not Stone Fox!" That book has stereotypical imagery in it. The stoic Indian in it is violent, too, striking the white kid that is the main character. Even though it all comes out ok in the end, I don't recommend it. Stereotypes are just no good, for anyone.

I've finally gotten a chance to look over the entire flyer and am really glad to see Joseph Bruchac's Eagle Song is in there. I like that book a lot and recommend it. (The flyer also has Bruchac's story about the Trail of Tears, but I haven't read that one yet.)

Don't waste a dollar on Stone Fox. Spend three dollars instead, and get Eagle Song. Danny, the main character, is Mohawk. The setting is present day. His dad is a steelworker. They've moved to a city where Danny feels alone and is teased about his heritage. Like other Native families who find themselves in cities, they seek out a Native community, and find it at the American Indian Community House. Lot of good in this book! I highly recommend it. It was first published in in 1999 by Puffin Books.


Anonymous said...


I have a question. I haven't read Stone Fox, so I'm not commenting directly on it. Is it always a stereotype to have a Native character who is violent? Are Native people not diverse among themselves, so that some are violent and some are not, just like some white people are violent and some are not?

The important thing is for the character to be a well-rounded three dimensional character. If all that is presented is a stereotype, that's certainly wrong. But if a Native person lashes out and is violent, and this makes sense in the story, but it is not presented as something that the Native person does because he is Native, particularly if there are other Native characters who are not violent, this would not be a stereotype in my view.

It would be like saying that you could never have a supersmart Asian, like Lisa Yee presents in Millicent Minn, Girl Genius, because it is a stereotype that Asians are supersmart achievers. Lisa Yee includes Asians who are not supersmart, like Stanford Wong who appears in Stanford Wong Flunks Bigtime.

Shouldn't diverse characters be diverse?

Debbie Reese said...

Yes, diverse characters should be shown as three-dimensional characters. The man's name is Stone Fox. Here's excerpts of how Stone Fox is described:

The man was an Indian—dressed in furs and leather, with moccasins that came all the way up to his knees. His skin was dark, his hair was dark, and he wore a dark-colored headband. His eyes sparkled in the sunlight, but the rest of his face was as hard as stone.

Gardiner, John Reynolds (2010-04-29). Stone Fox (Harper Trophy Book) (p. 50). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Little Willy had never seen a giant before. “Gosh,” little Willy gasped. The Indian looked at little Willy. His face was solid granite, but his eyes were alive and cunning. “Howdy,” little Willy blurted out, and he gave a nervous smile. But the Indian said nothing.

Gardiner, John Reynolds (2010-04-29). Stone Fox (Harper Trophy Book) (p. 52). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

There was a movement through the darkness to little Willy’s right. A sweeping motion, fast at first; then it appeared to slow and stop. But it didn’t stop. A hand hit little Willy right in the face, sending him over backward. “I didn’t mean any harm, Mr. Stone Fox,” little Willy said as he picked himself up off the ground, holding a hand over his eye. Stone Fox stood tall in the darkness and said nothing.

Gardiner, John Reynolds (2010-04-29). Stone Fox (Harper Trophy Book) (p. 60). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Stone Fox must have heard little Willy, but he did not look at him. His face was frozen like ice, and his eyes seemed to lack that sparkle little Willy remembered seeing before.

Gardiner, John Reynolds (2010-04-29). Stone Fox (Harper Trophy Book) (p. 67). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.