Monday, September 06, 2021



Sharice's Big Voice: A Native Kid Becomes a Congresswoman
Written by Sharice Davids (Ho-Chunk) with Nancy K. Mays
Illustrated by Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley (member of Wasauksing, First Nation)
Published in 2021
Publisher: Harper Collins
Reviewer: Debbie Reese
Review Status: Highly Recommended


In some books, I find one thing after another that I absolutely adore. Sharice's Big Voice is one of those books. First example? The back cover. It is a page from inside. It looks like this:

On that page, Sharice is studying. A stack of books is there. The text on that page tells us that she started law school so that she could work to make US laws more just and fair. Those words are cool, but look at the pages behind her! 

My guess is that most readers will recognize "The Constitution of the United States" but why is our attention being drawn to Article 6? Do you know what Article 6 is about? Hint: it has to do with the other pages you see behind Sharice! 

Sharice's Big Voice is a picture book whose contents make the case for why picture books should be read by everyone. If you're teaching social studies, teach this book and do a study of this page. Start by reading Article 6. Then, ask students to do research on the Treaty With the Winnebago, and the other items on that page. Put them into chronological order, after having read Article 6. 

As I reflect on that page, I'm reminded of the article by Sarah B. Shear, Leilani Sabzalian, and Lisa Brown Buchanan.  It is titled "Affirming Indigenous Sovereignty: A Civics Inquiry" and came out in 2018 in an educator's journal called Social Studies and the Young Learner. Here's the first sentence in the article:
Indigenous sovereignty is an essential component of civics education.
Here's the first sentence in the next paragraph:
Elementary social studies curriculum is notoriously silent about Indigenous sovereignty.
My guess is that most teachers want to give their students a solid education and might know a bit about Native sovereignty--but not enough to feel confident in what they do. And so, they are silent about Indigenous sovereignty. The article has key words and definitions, realistic steps for you to take with your students as you begin to fill that silent space, and links to resources to help you.  

Affirming Indigenous Sovereignty (the article) and Sharice's Big Voice can be your starting place to make a difference in what your students learn about Native peoples. Get the picture book, and if your librarian isn't able to get the article for you, let me know. 

There's a lot more to say about Sharice's Big Voice but I gotta get outside and finish the paint job on our fence. I'll be thinking about this book and may be back to say more. It is one of my favorite books of the year. It affirms Native identity, and being physically, educationally, and politically active. This page is so important! It says (in part): "Growing up, I never would have guessed my path would lead to Congress. I didn't know that I would be one of the first Native American women in Congress and the first lesbian representative from Kansas." 

And if you're wondering if it is tribally specific? The answer is yes! There's a page about kids in school asking Sharice "What are you." She tells her mom about it, and her mom tells her "We're members of the Ho-Chunk Nation." When I talk about the book online I'll use #Ho-ChunkVoice--and you should, too.  

Page after page, the words resonate and educate, and Pawis-Steckley's gorgeous Ojibwe art does, too! Get a copy for your classroom library, your home library, and ask your librarian to get copies. Then, talk about it with others. Share the knowledge that Sharice Davids and Nancy K. Mays provide in Sharice's Big Voice. 


Back to say that good nonfiction for young people is very hard to find, especially biography or autobiography about Native people of the present day. If this book had been available when Betsy McEntarffer and I wrote "Indigenous Nations in Nonfiction" for Crisp, Knezek, and Gardner's Reading and Teaching with Diverse Nonfiction Children's Books, we'd have written about it, with tremendous joy.