Tuesday, June 01, 2021

Take Action: Contact Scholastic about Clifford's Halloween

This morning as I prep for an event that is framed as a book fair, I started looking for an image of book fairs to remind people that they make choices at fairs. They look carefully. I found a Scholastic Book Fair image that includes several of its more popular characters. One of them is Clifford the Big Red Dog. 

It is the perfect image to make my point. If you go to a Scholastic Book Fair and you see Clifford's Halloween on the table, pick it up. Page through it. What do you see? Newer editions of the book have "An Indian" or "An Indian Chief" in them. 

But, the very first edition, published in 1966, did not have an Indian. Instead, Clifford is shown as a zebra. Why did it get replaced with the Indian image, in 1986?! Scholastic--if you're reading this, can you tell us why that happened? (Screen caps below are from video read-alouds people have shared of them reading the book):

"A zebra" in 1966 edition

"An Indian" in 1986 edition

"An Indian chief" in 2011 edition

Do you have the 1986 or 2011 edition of the book on your home, classroom, or library shelf? 

If it is a personal copy, please send it to Scholastic. Ask them to revert to the zebra page or come up with a new costume for Clifford. And ask them to add a page to the revised book that tells readers they had "An Indian" and "An Indian chief" in their 1986 and 2011 editions. Sometimes, authors (or those who control their estate) decide to remove problematic text or illustrations from their books. A note about the revised content is not included in the book. Librarians write to me to ask for notes about that because it helps them in their collection development. They'd like to remove the problematic version and replace it with the newer one. Such notes can be very helpful! They can show us that people are capable of listening to concerns, and that they take action to incorporate what they've learned. 

If you send your copy of the book to Scholastic, please let me know! If you're comfortable in doing so, use social media to tell others what you're doing. You can use the #StepUpScholastic hashtag. 

Back to add their address:
Scholastic Inc.
557 Broadway
New York, NY 10012-3999

Monday, May 31, 2021

Debbie--have you seen Whitney Sanderson's GOLDEN SUN, (#5 in the Horse Diaries series)?

A reader wrote to ask if I've read Whitney Sanderson's Golden Sun. Published in 2010, it is part of the Horse Diaries series published by Random House Books for Young Readers. The books are historical fiction, told from the point of view of horses.

There are, I think, 16 books in the series. 

#16 is Penny, "a blue-eyed palomino paint" who, with a boy named Jesse, search for gold in California. Gold rush stories are -- to many readers -- exciting. They seem to line up with the "American dream" of success by way of hard work. What is left out or not even considered, is the life of Native peoples whose homelands existed for thousands of years before arrival of Europeans who were seeking riches.  

#3 is Koda, a bay quarter horse who is on the Oregon Trail. Stories about it are also problematic for the same reason that gold rush stories are (they celebrate something that was devastating to Native people, their families, and their homelands). 

I was able to see chapter one of Golden Sun online. Here's the description of the book:
Oregon, 1790 
Golden Sun is a chestnut snowflake Appaloosa. In summer, he treks through the mountains with his rider, a Nez Perce boy named Little Turtle, as he gathers healing plants. But when Little Turtle’s best friend falls ill, Golden Sun discovers his true calling. Here is Golden Sun’s story...in his own words.

And here are some notes as I read chapter one. Notes in regular fond; my comments are in italics.
  • Several words are in italics, which I assume are meant to be from the language Little Turtle's people use. Is there a source note for those words in the back matter? I hope so. I did a quick search for one of the words used ("tawts"). The hits are to the Kaya books in the American Girls series. There is a Nimipuutimt language page online (in video and print) and I see "tá'c" there, pronounced like "tawts." [Note: The book came out in 2010. Today, writers are successfully having words in their language printed in a regular font (not italics). For an explanation why, see Daniel Jose Older's video.]  
  • An older horse told Golden Sun a story about horses who were born in Spain "where the land was hardly visible for all the people and horses and lodges crowded upon it." Describing European lands that way is a technique often used to make the point that it was necessary for Europeans to set out for "the New World" where there was a lot of land that, from a European point of view, was not being used. That idea and imagery is used to justify invasion of Native lands. 
  • Little Turtle uses an obsidian knife to cut some of Golden Sun's hair off. He puts it in his medicine bag. Think of someone using a knife versus using an "obsidian" knife. That word (obsidian) communicates a lot! It sends a "primitive" message that is characteristic of efforts to depict Native peoples as uncivilized. 

Based on what I see in chapter one, I would probably put a "not recommended" tag on this book. If I get a copy, I'll be back. 

Sunday, May 30, 2021

An Open Letter to Anyone Writing or Editing or Reviewing or Using a Children's Book about Crazy Horse

May 30, 2021

Dear Anyone Writing or Editing or Reviewing or Using a Children's Book about Crazy Horse:

This morning I read an email from a teacher who is asking me about Crazy Horse. She is considering a particular book and wondered if it has merit. My library does not have a copy but I can see the first few pages online. The author of the Crazy Horse biography is Anne M. Todd. She is not Native. Chapter one opens with a quote that she attributes to Crazy Horse: 
"It is a good day to fight! A good day to die! Strong hearts, brave hearts, to the front! Weak hearts and cowards to the rear!"
That quote is what prompted this open letter. When I see something like that, I wonder if that person (in this case, Crazy Horse) said those words? And, I wonder about the source for the quote. 

Because I can't see the whole book, I don't know if the quote is sourced in a bibliography or back matter for the book. I find that quote in Stephen Ambrose's book, Crazy Horse and Custer: The Parallel Lives of Two American Warriors, but he doesn't have a source for it either. So... where did it come from? 

I'm asking that people be mindful of quotes attributed to Native people. Quotes can take on a life of their own. When they're not the words the person actually spoke, that's a problem. 

Let's look at a recent example.

When Eric Carle died last week, a photo of a page that people took for an interview with him began circulating--but the "interview" was a joke in an April Fools 2015 issue of The Paris Review. That interview was cited as if it was something Carle wrote. It was cited on social media, and a passage from the joke also appears in Clare Pollard's book, Fierce Bad Rabbits. Avi Naftali pointed out the mistake and The Paris Review subsequently added a note to the top of the original joke. It says:
This piece was published as part of an April Fool's post in 2015, entitled "Introducing The Paris Review for Young Readers." It is a fictional interview, and intended purely as a parody. It is not intended to communicate any true or factual information, and is for entertainment purposes only.
The difference in the Crazy Horse quote and the Carle/not Carle joke is that we don't know the source of the Crazy Horse quote. Or rather--I don't know the source. I'll keep looking. My point, however, is that when something is repeated enough, it becomes taken as fact. To some people, the Carle/not Carle joke felt similar enough to things Carle said that people took the joke as fact. In the Carle/not Carle case, I think that all the players (so to speak) are white. 

With the Crazy Horse case, we supposedly have the words of a Native man but we don't know who recorded them. If it was a Lakota person who heard his words (presumably spoken in Lakota) who recounted them to someone else, that would feel like an authentic presentation of Crazy Horse. 

I've got doubts, though! That famous speech supposedly given by Chief Seattle is one example of what I'm getting at. He spoke some words but they aren't the ones attributed to him in books like Brother Eagle Sister Sky, by Susan Jeffers.

My doubts are affirmed as I read The Journey of Crazy Horse: A Lakota History by Joseph M. Marshall III. He's Lakota. I strongly recommend you get a copy of his book. Read the Introduction and the Reflections. He rejects Ambrose's characterization of Crazy Horse as an "American warrior" in the subtitle of his book and he does not include the quote in his book. Marshall's middle grade book, In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse, is outstanding. Get a copy of it for your classrooms and set aside all the biographies that might be in your classroom or library. It won the American Indian Library Association's Youth Literature Award in 2016

I'll keep looking for the source of the quote. I'm guessing that Anne Todd got it from Ambrose's book. If you find or know the source, let me know! In the meantime, hit your pause buttons when you come across quotes attributed to Native people. Don't be complicit in misattributions.