Thursday, June 16, 2016

Debbie--have you seen THE CASE OF THE PORTRAIT VANDAL by Steve Brezenoff

This particular "Debbie--have you seen" is here, not because someone asked me about it, but because it was recommended on child_lit a few days ago because it has an Ojibwe character.

The character in The Case of the Portrait Vandal is "Raining Sam" as shown in the synopsis:
There's a vandal in the Capitol City Museum of American History, and he or she is intent on defacing priceless artifacts. Raining Sam, the son of the Head of Educational Programs and local Ojibwe tribe member, is determined to get to the bottom of things before anything else can be destroyed. But when Raining himself is considered a suspect, he and his friends must race against the clock to unmask the real culprit and solve the museum mystery before it's too late.

The name, "Raining Sam" and then "Raining" as his first name throughout is a bit of a stumbling block for me. But I do like this part about Wilson (Raining's friend):
Wilson knew about Raining's interest in American history, especially the history of his own people, the Ojibwe. The tribe had been on the continent known as North America a lot longer than some other people.
I also like the part where Wilson can tell that their two friends are approaching because Wilson knows what their footsteps sound like (p. 15):
"Amazing," said Raining, standing up from his spot at the table. "And people think we're supposed to be the trackers." It bugged Raining that people he met still assumed certain things about North America's indigenous people."
The book is part of a mystery series starring four kids whose parents work in museums. Here's a screen capture of them. On the far left is Wilson. Next to him is Amal. By her is Clementine, and, that's Raining on the far right.

Published in 2015 by Capstone, there's a copy of The Case of the Portrait Vandal on the new books shelf in my local library. I'll be back when I get a chance to read it. It


Beverly Slapin said...

Wow! Amal is a hijabi. Now, how cool is that? I wonder if there's a reference to Islam, and hope this book is good.

Unknown said...

I really want to know what you think about this one, Debbie! The first four books in this series this year for our library. I agree the name Raining Sam is questionable. The books were pretty good, but because they're beginning chapter books the ethnicity and culture of the kids is a bit shallow. I think it's such a hard balance to strike in this type of book written for kids who are really still working on the mechanics of reading. Including too much extraneous text and information can make the book too taxing, but it's important to address these issues even in literature for our newest and youngest readers. I hope you get a copy and share your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Interesting! It seems like in order to clarify and avoid panism, the author has to stick in explanations here and there. And as Tibby said, the balance can be hard because if too much extraneous text is included, it can be difficult for young readers. I think it also makes it difficult to get in the door of a publisher. Editors constantly admonish writers to avoid exposition, especially exposition that does not move the story forward. I'm not saying this is a bad thing or a good thing. It's just a thing. And it could keep even well-intentioned books from having the clarity of truthfully explaining an entire culture and distinguishing it from other Native cultures, rather than lumping them together.

Deborah Menkart said...

I also look forward to your feedback once you have finished the book. There is such a scarcity of good beginning chapter books. So often I see pictures books with way too much text for early childhood classes -- I wish they had been written as beginning chapter books instead.