Friday, September 16, 2016

SHADOW OF THE SHARK by Mary Pope Osborne

Mary Pope Osborne's Shadow of the Shark was published in 2015 as part of the best-selling Magic Tree House series. Osborne's Thanksgiving on Thursday did not fare well, here, at American Indians in Children's literature. Her Shadow of the Shark is just as bad. I tweeted as I read it, on September 15, 2016, made the tweets into a Storify (inserting comments between the tweets), and used the copy/paste function to paste the Storify here.

  1. View image on Twitter

    Geez. In Osborne's SHADOW OF THE SHARK, Mayan king decides white time traveler boy will be the next king.

  2. That's why the Mayans were looking at Jack (white boy), with fear and wonder when he and his sister walked into the midst of their dance.

  3. Oh dang... and not surprised... Mayan girl using "many moons" phrase. Her name? Heart-of-the-Wind.

  4. Her name... doesn't it call to mind Disney's Pocahontas?! 

  5. She moves "silently and smoothly" through the swamp. Jack is noisy but wants to be like her.

  6. These goofy hyphenated Indian-sounding names (oh dang, I used a hyphen, too) are dreadful. So many writers come up with names like these for characters. But heck. A little research, please! Osborne could have looked for someone who speaks one of the Mayan languages, and found out what their word is for jaguar, and used that, right? Or a translation of it, from that language into English? Maybe Osborne thinks there's no Mayan people around? Surely, though.... doesn't she listen to, or read, national news? Like this story?

  7. Then, they see He-Who-Kills-With-One-Leap (a jaguar). Jack thinks they should run but Heart-of-the-Wind stares at jaguar...

  8. ... to "send peaceful thoughts" and then he lets them pass. SHADOW OF THE SHARK came out last year, by the way. It is a Magic Tree House bk.

  9. Did you catch that... Heart-of-the-Wind/Pocahontas... talking to animals? 

  10. Who edited this book? It is so White. Jack's sister, Annie, looks at Heart-of-the-Wind and says she's like an Eagle Scout.

  11. In an underground place, Heart points to columns of white rock and says they're stone sculptures made by "the Rain God."

  12. But Jack remembers his geology studies. Those things are stalactites. He likes Heart's explanation. How nice of him.

  13. I wonder if Osborne has a Magic Tree House story where Jack and Annie travel to... the Vatican. I wonder if that book would be dismissive of what they see there?

  14. Heart leads them back to the beach where they started their time travel. As they say bye, Heart says she'll tell her King-dad they left.

  15. With Jack and Annie leaving, Jack won't be the next king who will lead the Mayan people.

  16. Annie asks Heart why she (Heart) can't be the next leader of the Mayan people. Heart laughs at the idea but Jack and Annie tell her...

  17. ... that she's brave. And she can talk to the jaguar.... Heart likes the idea but knows her King-dad won't go for it. But... maybe... if...

  18. JACK tells him that Heart should be leader... he'll listen.

  19. But Jack can't go back to the place where Heart's dad is, so... they record a video on Jack's phone. Heart will play this magic for her dad!

  20. I know... you're dying to know what Jack says...

  21. “Greetings, Great Sun of Palenque. I have a message for you. My sister and I have come from Frog Creek, a land far away, to tell you this:"

  22. "women can lead just as well as men. Many women are leaders in our world. They are presidents, queens, senators..."

  23. It goes on... They play it back for Heart, who is amazed. Her gift in return is some magic that helps them return to the present day.

  24. Back at their present day hotel, Jack and Annie look up Heart-of-the-Wind and find that a Mayan woman with that name became ruler...

  25. & was first female Mayan ruler in Mayan history "due to extremely unusual circumstances, the details of which have not survived."

  26. Yay (not) for White Saviors! And White Writers!

  27. Osborne's other books with Native people include THANKSGIVING ON THURSDAY.
  28. There's a review of BUFFALO BEFORE BREAKFAST in A BROKEN FLUTE: THE NATIVE EXPERIENCE IN BOOKS FOR CHILDREN. No surprise... it is a #Fail, too! 
  29. Guess what the wise old Lakota grandma in Buffalo Before Breakfast names Jack? 
  30. Rides-Like-Wind (I guess Osborne is partial to names with wind in them). 
  31. I know some of you think I'm mean, being snarky and all towards Osborne's writing. Some of you may even think what I've said should be ignored. Because... tone. Some of you think that criticism has to be delivered in the proper way. 
  32. Sometimes, snark is the only way to get through a book. I hope Osborne reads this Storify. I hope her editor does. Reading Shadow of the Shark is one of those many times when I read a book and think HOW DID THIS GET PUBLISHED??? 
  33. Whether you like my tone or not, I hope you'll click on away, with the info I've shared in mind. Don't screw up if you're writing about Native peoples. Someone will probably write to me about your screw up. And then you'll see your book on my site in the "Debbie--have you seen" series... 


Anonymous said...

Debbie ~ Maybe instead of spending all your time trashing other people's work and being angry about what you find you should start writing books for children that meet your standards. Just a thought. ~ A School Librarian

Debbie Reese said...

Dear School Librarian,

Hmmmm.... is that what you say to other professional reviewers and literary scholars when they are critical of a book?

schanoes said...

On a tangent, I am wondering why writers insist on translating names into English instead of transliterating them. I mean, my name is not "True Image" or "Bearing Victory" (depending on which etymology you go with); it's "Veronica," and it'll stay "Veronica" no matter what language a person is speaking. And, to choose a person from a different culture at random, Achlles iis not called "Grief of the People" in English translations of The Iliad. He's just called "Achilles." This kind of needless translation robs people of their true names as well as makes American Indians seem unusual in having names with meaning.


Debbie Reese said...

Writers do some odd things. Thanks for noting that, Veronica. I've got something similar in my mind today as I read a book from 2002 or thereabouts. White writer. Native character who time travels from present back to 1500s. There, he's with his tribe, but in that period. He speaks. They understand him and wonder why he knows their language because they don't recognize him. He marvels about that a bit (that he is speaking that language). That's fine, but here's the odd thing. Interspersed here and there, in the English they speak to each other (which is supposed to be that language), are words, in italics that actually are of that language. Not sure I'm making sense!

schanoes said...

You're totally making sense! They're trying to throw in "authentic" words to give it a flavor, and doing so in a way that is exoticizing and kind of creepy.


Sam Jonson said...

You're not going to believe this, Debbie. But I just found out, that book IS supposed to be based on a real event (although I agree, its depiction of it is really flawed). Yohl Ik'nal was the first recorded female Mayan ruler. She ruled from 583 to 604. And her name meant "Lady Heart of the Wind Place", but as you have correctly pointed out, she should be referred to as "Yohl Ik'nal", NOT by that English translation Osborne used (which, as you can see, was not made-up but really a result of (deliberate?) omission--just as bad, I think). Thank goodness for her being listed under Wikipedia's "On this day..." (although in a sadly subdued way).