Thursday, May 12, 2022

Not Recommended: BAREFOOT BOY by Gloria D. Miklowitz and Jim Collins

Barefoot Boy by Gloria D. Miklowitz, illustrated by Jim Collins, came out in Follett's "Beginning to Read" series in 1964. A reader sent it to me some time back. Here's the book description:

Paul Steven did not like to wear shoes. He lost a pair of white shoes and a pair of brown shoes. He also lost his sneakers. The barefoot boy found that pebbles hurt, bees sting, thorns bite, and glass cuts. On his 7th birthday, he received a cowboy suit, a cowboy hat, a toy gun.....and a pair of high, shiny COWBOY BOOTS. The boy loved his boots and a cowboy never takes off his boots!

On page 12, we read that Paul Steven stopped wearing shoes because "Paul Steven became an Indian." He tells his mother that he "never heard of an Indian wearing shoes."

With each page turn we see one stereotype after another:

His father tells him that "In winter even wild Indians wear moccasins. Where are your moccasins, Paul Steven?"  

Paul Steven has some, so he wears them for a while but then, as the description above notes, he gets a cowboy suit and cowboy boots for his birthday. Now, he's a cowboy who wears his boots, all the time. 

Quite the story, isn't it? 

I did this short post on it because readers with this kind of stereotyping are not published like they used to be--but the kinds of images in them still circulate in how people think about Native peoples. People have a lot of nostalgia for these kinds of books. This book came out when I was in elementary school. It may have been on the shelves in my school but I don't remember it. Do you?