Sunday, August 27, 2023

Highly Recommended: ROCK YOUR MOCS, written by Laurel Goodluck, illustrated by Madelyn Goodnight

Rock Your Mocs
Written by Laurel Goodluck
Illustrated by Madelyn Goodnight
Published by Heartdrum
Published in 2023
Reviewer: Debbie Reese
Review Status: Highly Recommended

Several years ago on Native social media, I saw people talking about plans to wear their moccasins for "Rock Your Mocs" day. On that day, we took photos of our mocs and shared them joyously in a way that radiated an Indigenous solidarity vibe (I'm borrowing that phrase from page 12 of Cynthia Leitich Smith's new book, Harvest House.) I felt a tremendous lift, scrolling through my timelines and looking at the many different kinds of moccasins people were wearing. If you want to see what I mean, search #RockYourMocs on social media. 

A couple of years ago when I saw that Laurel Goodluck and Madelyn Goodnight were doing a picture book about Rock Your Mocs day, I was absolutely delighted! Turning that day into a picture book is brilliant! It is one way to show readers that Native peoples are people of tribal nations located across the continent, and that our names, languages, histories, stories, songs homes--and clothing--are unique.

Just look at that cover and you'll see another huge plus. Those are Native kids of the present day.  The art is gorgeous, the idea is brilliant and the opportunity to know us for who we are: outstanding! 

When you start reading you'll come across the names of twelve different tribal nations, which means that children of those nations have mirrors that reflect who they are. Books as mirrors is a metaphor put forth by Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop in 1991 (read her article and you'll understand the metaphor). 

Those twelve? Colville, Hidatsa, Hopi-Tewa, Inupiaq, Little Shell Chippewa, Menominee, Navajo, Ojibwe, Osage, Seminole, Tuscarora, and Yurok. 

Goodluck's text is ebullient. Here's a look at the left-side of one page. "Indigenous Nations." " cities and towns..." and "We're stylin' today as we Rock Our Mocs!" All of that is terrific. And the decision to put "Rock Our Mocs" in a larger font size than the rest of the text works so well!

Here and there you'll see Native words. On one page, Ajuawak (he's the Ojibwe child) is standing at a chalkboard on which someone has written Ojibwe words for numbers from 1 to 10. I can see a teacher doing that for other Native languages. 

In the final pages -- which I strongly encourage you to read -- you'll find three helpful sections of background. First is a brief history of Rock Your Mocs Day and that it began in 2011 when Jessica "Jaylyn" Atsye of Laguna Pueblo suggested wearing mocs beyond days when we wear them for ceremonies or powwows. Second is information about moccasins, and third is a section titled Indigenous Children. There, you'll learn that Native children may be intertribal, or bi- or tri-cultural. I can use myself as an example. My mom is from Ohkay Owingeh. Her mother was from there and her father was Hopi. My dad is from Nambé Owingeh. His mother was from there and his father was white. In terms of tribal identity, I'm enrolled at Nambé, but I also have Ohkay Owingeh and Hopi relatives. Raised and enrolled at Nambé, my traditional moccasins and clothing are the kind worn at Nambé. 

I adore what I see in Rock Your Mocs and recommend you get copies for your classroom and school library and that you consider getting one for your home library, too. And gift copies to friends! 

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