Monday, March 23, 2020

Children's Books for Social Distance Powwow


I typed the seven characters in COVID19 and then didn't know what to say.

I've been trying (but failing) to read new books, or to turn my notes on previously read books into a review. That fail is because of the weight--for me--of COVID19 on the heels of three years of work on An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States for Young People. Adapting that book took a tremendous toll on me that I had not been fully aware of until I couldn't deny that toll any longer. I needed some rest! So, in February I made a recovery plan and started to feel better.

But then came COVID19. We've had a couple of scares but we're ok.

Some things lift my spirits. Most of you probably know that powwows are gatherings of Native people. One response to COVID19 is the Social Distance Powwow. If you're Native, you know what I'm talking about! Videos of Native people dancing--alone--are in our social media threads.

As I watch them--especially the ones of children--I think about some wonderful children's books I've reviewed here at AICL, that are about children and families at powwows or traditional gatherings.

Powwow Summer: A Family Celebrates the Circle of Life by Marcie Rendon (Ojibwe); photos by Cheryl Walsh Bellville (not Native). I first read it in 1995 when I started doing research on Native peoples in children's books and absolutely loved what Marcie Rendon shared in this nonfiction picture book! Bellville's photos are terrific.

Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee Creek); illustrations by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu (not Native). It came out in 2000 and is the book I wish I had when our daughter danced for the first time.

The Butterfly Dance written and illustrated by Gerald Dawavendewa (Hopi). This is another book I wish I'd had when our daughter first danced--especially because my grandfather was Hopi and this dance is similar to ones we do at Nambé.

Bowwow Powwow by Brenda Child (Red Lake Ojibwe); illustrated by Jonathan Thunder (Red Lake Ojibwe); translated by Gordon Jourdain (Lac La Croix First Nation). Delightful and informative, it came out in 2018 and won the American Indian Library Association's 2019 Youth Literature Award in the picture book category.

The Dancers by Thomas Peacock (Lake Superior Anishinaabe Ojibwe) and illustrated by Jacqueline Paske Gill (not Native) came out in 2019. Told from the perspective of a little girl, one of the dancers in this picture book is her aunt, who is a Fancy Shawl dancer. Later, the auntie joins the army and is badly hurt. Doctors amputate her legs, and with encouragement of her Native family and community and doctors she eventually dances, again. I got the book in Minnesota from the Birchbark Books table at a conference. The women at the table told me it sells well in the store and I can see why it appeals to Native people. Many of us have family in the military. 

I'll close this post with this: on my to-be-read pile is Siha Tooskin Knows The Love of the Dance written by Charlene Bearhead (not Native), Wilson Bearhead (Nakota and Wabamun Lake First Nation), and illustrated by Chloe Bluebird Mustooch (Alexis Nakoda Sioux Nation). Due out in 2020, it is part of the "Siha Tooskin Knows" series published by Highwater Press. Have you seen it? If you have, what are your thoughts? And, are there other books in this theme (Native children/families at powwows or traditional gatherings) that you'd add?

If you want more information about the Social Distance Powwow, I recommend you see Mary Annette Pember's article "Dancing for the people (virtually)" at Indian Country Today. If you do search on your own, some of what you find may be sketchy or appropriative.