Sunday, May 27, 2018

Not recommended: INTO THE WOODS (book one in the "Bigfoot Boy" series of graphic novels) by Torres and Hicks

A reader wrote to ask if I've seen the Bigfoot Boy series of graphic novels by J. Torres, illustrated by Faith Erin Hicks.

The first one Into the Woods came out in 2012 from Kids Can Press. Here's the description:
Bored while visiting his grandmother for the weekend, Rufus, an ordinary ten-year-old boy, ventures into the nearby woods after he spies his young neighbor Penny heading there. A city kid, Rufus quickly loses sight of Penny, but while making his way back to Grammy's, he's drawn to an unusual object he sees hidden inside a tree: it's a totem, carved out of wood and hung on a cord. Rufus places the odd-looking thing around his neck and reads out loud the word inscribed on it: “Sasquatch.” Suddenly, strange things begin happening all around him --- and to him. Rufus doesn't know what's going on, but he's sure of one thing. He'll never be ordinary again!

Totem? Strange things? Hmm...

So, I took a look at what I can see online. The first pages are funny. Rufus is so bored! His grandmother is watching her soaps. On the wall are photographs of what I take to be Native people. That, I think, is great!


Rufus looks out the window and sees a girl going into the woods.

He decides to do that, too, and is creeped out and awed by the forest (remember, he's a city kid), as he walks through it.

He wonders aloud "where am I?"

Then he comes upon the girl, who tells him "You are in my forest."

See her hair?




The next day he looks out the window and sees a Native teen hanging clothes on the line. There's little hearts floating around him. I think that is a hint that he thinks she's pretty.

She turns around, sees him, introduces herself (her name is Aurora) and remarks on how red his hair is. She's seen photographs of him but didn't realize his hair would be so red, in person. Then.... she ruffles his hair.  So many stories have that Native fascination with blonde and red hair. The Native characters want to touch it. And they do. I don't know how or why that particular idea took root, but it is old and icky. At the moment I am not remembering a Native writer who has their characters do that. Lot of non-Native writers do it, though. It is in Caddie Woodlawn, for example:



Aurora sees her little sister, Penny, watching them, and asks what she's doing. Penny stomps off. Aurora tells Rufus "That's my sister Penny. She's a skunk." Rufus says "I know. I met her yesterday. She was kind of mean." Then.... another problem:

Aurora says "Oh! That's not what I meant. Skunk is her animal spirit guide."



Rufus asks what that is, and in the next panel, Aurora tells him "It's an animal spirit that protects and helps you if you know how to listen to the. Some people take after their animal guides and have similar .... traits."  She goes on to talk about how Penny is like a skunk. She doesn't say anything about that white streak in Penny's hair, but I can't NOT see it as Torres and Hicks are providing visual evidence of Penny's "spirit animal."



Like Native people shown in awe of blonde or red hair, spirit animals are a problem. I was enjoying this graphic novel until we got to the red hair part, and the spirit animal part definitely puts Into the Woods in the "Not Recommended" category.






3 comments:

Linda Rodriguez said...

The "touching red hair" thing always puzzles me, too. No Natives of any generation I've ever met do this, but lots of settlers touch, stroke, grab our hair without permission and seem fascinated by it. Projection, maybe?

Mike M said...

I haven't seen this first volume of the series; I only know the second book "The Unkindness of Ravens," where I didn't recognize Penny as being a Native girl. She first appears in book 2 digging holes in the forest looking for a "totem" of her own--that didn't strike me as something a local kid would do, more like an archaeological-digging-for-treasure trope bordering on grave robbery. A brown girl archaeologist--that's cool, we could use more of those; grave robber--no. I guess it's supposed to remind us of a skunk digging for insects. Anyway, it doesn't help to redeem the book.

Laura Jimenez said...

Yeah -here is my review from a while back. Not recommended !
https://wordpress.com/post/booktoss.blog/203