Saturday, March 11, 2023

Another New Cover for Frank Asch's POPCORN

Back on July 23, 2015, I wrote about Frank Asch's picture book, Popcorn. It came out in 1979 and is about Sam (a bear) who is having a Halloween party. 

It came out again in 2015 with marketing info that said "This refreshed edition of a beloved classic features the original text and art with an updated cover." For the 2023 edition, the promo line tells us that the book has been "...refreshed with new art..." 

Here's the three covers:

The refreshing that was done to the original cover was to remove the jack-o-lantern border and replace it with a yellow one. The refreshed new art for the 2023 version (due out in the summer) replaces the bear's costume. He's no longer dressed like an Indian. In the new edition he'll be a pirate. 

In the original, each guest brings popcorn that reflects their costume:

We know--based on the cover--that the interior pages where Sam is shown wearing a headband, feather, and loincloth will be changed, but I wonder about the other costumes. Will the one holding "Walrus Blubber Popcorn" be "refreshed", too? We'll see! 

Tuesday, March 07, 2023

"Could he still use the youth edition of 'An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States'?"

The title of today's blog post is from an article in The Washington Post. It came out yesterday (March 6, 2023). Its title is 'Slavery was wrong' and 5 other things some educators won't teach anymore.' Its subtitle is "To mollify parents and obey new state laws, teachers are cutting all sorts of lessons." Written by Hanna Natanson, it is a look at the experiences of six teachers. 

I encourage you to read the entire article. I'm focusing on Native content taught by two of the teachers. 

Greg Wickenkamp:
Greg Wickenkamp taught eighth grade social studies in Iowa. There, a new law had been passed in June of 2021 that barred teachers from teaching "that the United States of America and the state of Iowa are fundamentally or systematically racist or sexist." Unclear about how the law would impact him, he emailed the district when school started again in the fall, to give them a list of what he was teaching. The Washington Post article says they have copies of the emails. Because the article says "Could he still use the youth edition of An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States for Young People?", I gather that An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States for Young People was on the list he sent to the district. The article includes a video, dated Feb 8, 2022, of Wickenkamp's conversation with the superintendent. The conversation centers on slavery. He wants to say that slavery was wrong but the way the law is written suggests that a statement like "slavery is wrong" is a "stance" and therefore not ok. At the end of the school year, Wickenkamp left his position as a teacher and is working on a PhD in Education. My guess is that a statement like "colonialism is wrong" would also be deemed inappropriate. 

Teacher in North Carolina:
The post does not disclose the teachers name because that teacher fears harassment. (Note: I know that fear. Many teachers and parents and librarians write to me about something but ask that I not share it or their name. They fear backlash on themselves or their children or family.) The teacher (of sophomores) taught excerpts from Christopher Columbus's journal, using the first chapter of Zinn's A People's History of the United States. A parent objected, saying it made her White son feel guilty. The district admonished the teacher and told them to stop the lesson on Columbus. They did, and at the end of the year, switched to a different school where they were able to teach those excerpts about Columbus. 


I am one of the people who brought forth An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States for Young People.  We know some teachers are using it in their classrooms and we know that some Native children carry it around everyday in their backpack. We know it matters, tremendously. 

I'm grateful to know about the teachers featured in the article. They are exercising leadership in their classrooms. There are many, across the U.S. They and librarians are under tremendous pressure. They need support. School administrators are afraid, too. When your school board is meeting to discuss what is taught in the classrooms, and what is on the library shelves, are you going to the meeting to voice support for teachers like the ones in the article? I hope so. 

Monday, March 06, 2023

Debbie--have you seen SWIFT ARROW by Josephine Cunnington Edwards?

Some time back, a reader wrote to ask if I had read Swift Arrow by Josephine Cunnington Edwards. It was published in 1997 by a publisher I was unfamiliar with: "TEACH Services." On their website is a page about their history. A paragraph from there:
On January 1, 1984, a small home in Harrisville, New Hampshire, became the maiden office of TEACH Services, Inc. The mission of the newly formed publishing company was to encourage and strengthen individuals around the world through the distribution of books that point readers to Christ. 
I see, there, that the author was a missionary to Africa. And here's a description of the book: 
Colored leaves, red, yellow, and brown, fluttered past George as he rode behind Woonsak in the long string of Indians and ponies. They were riding north and moving quickly. So many Indians moved along the path that George, who rode near the front of the line, could not see the end when he turned around to look. The farther they went, the more unhappy George became. For with every step, Neko (his faithful pony) took him farther and farther from his home and from Ma and Pa. Even the fluttering leaves seemed like little hands waving good-bye all the day long. So begins chapter seven of this beloved classic by Josephine Cunnington Edwards. George, a young pioneer boy is captured by Indians and raised as the son of a mighty chief. He spends his time learning the ways of these native Americans, and yearning for the day that he might find a way to return to his loving family.

The TEACH website offers a preview of the book. That same preview is available in Google Books. Historical fiction often has biased and anti-Indigenous words, so I sometimes do a search (that's an option in Google Books) on a particular word to see how it is used in the book. In Swift Arrow, I found:

"squaw" -- 20 times
"squaws" -- 18 times
"paleface" -- 13 times
"brave" (as word for male) -- 12 times
"papoose" -- 11 times
"redskins" -- 4 times
"firewater" -- 3 times
"savages" -- 2 times 

I also looked for the word "dance" to see how it is used. Classic and award-winning books often include deeply offensive depictions of what they call Indian dance/dancing. In Swift Arrow, George watches "several warriors" jump into the middle of a circle and begin "a strange dance" where they leap into the air, and howl. Then, "several more braves" jumped into the circle. As George goes to sleep, he listens to the "howling" and thinks about this "savage life." You see that sort of description in Little House on the Prairie, and Sign of the Beaver, and Touching Spirit Bear. 

As the description above notes, George gets captured by Indians. When he arrives at the village, a few "squaws" pointed at him and "a few reached up dirty hands to touch his light face and run their fingers through his curly hair." There's a lot to say about that particular scene but I draw your attention to the word "dirty." It is also commonly used in historical fiction, as if being dirty is a way of life for Native people. It wasn't. 

As I look at reviews, etc., I see that their chief, "Big Wolf" plans to make George--who is now called Swift Arrow--his son and future chief of the tribe. That sort of thing is seen in many works of historical fiction. An authority figure (in this case "Big Wolf") is choosing a white captive for a significant role in the tribe. Those storylines are examples of white supremacy. Knowing that the author was a missionary, it does not surprise me that she created that particular plot. 

If I decide to order the book I'll be back with a more in-depth review but right now, I am confident in saying that I would not recommend it. I wish this book was an outlier but I think the questions I've received about it point to it being used more and more within politically conservative spaces.