Wednesday, December 21, 2011

THE CHRISTMAS COAT by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve

On December 6, 2011, I learned about a new book called The Christmas Coat: Memories of My Sioux Childhood, by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve. Earlier this week, I read it, and like it very much. Here's the cover:


The book is subtitled "Memories of my Sioux Childhood" and that's Virginia on the cover. These are her memories. Perhaps the subtitle signals that there may be other books in the works. I hope so!

In The Christmas Coat, we come to know a young Virginia and her family in South Dakota in the 1940s or thereabouts. That's "a long time ago" to any young child, but in this "long time ago" story, we have Native children who, like other children of that time period, wear things like... green sweaters rather than the popular stereotype that suggests that "real" Indians wear buckskin and feathers.  Like people of any culture or nation, we have clothing that we wear at specific times for specific purposes. Virginia wore that green sweater, but doing so did not--and does not--make her "less" Native.

.............................................................................................................

The Christmas Coat won the 
.............................................................................................................

On the cover, we see three children in buckskin and feathered headdresses. The reason they're dressed that way is because they are playing the part of the Wise Men at a Nativity pageant. The accompanying text says "They wore headdresses that only the wise leaders and elders of the tribe could wear."

You see, Virginia's dad is an Episcopal priest in their village. That plays a major role in the story. People from church congregations in the eastern part of the United States would send boxes of clothing to churches on reservations. The winter boxes include coats. Virginia needs, and wants, a new coat... How she gets one is the plot of the story.  With Christmas 2011 a few days away, children all over the US are filled with wants, and needs, too. As such, the story will resonate with children and their parents, too.

Beneath that plot, however, is a wealth of information that children can pick up. As I said last week, Christmas at my mom's is a mix of traditional Pueblo ways, and, mainstream things like Christmas trees and Santa Claus (I played the part of Santa last year):




The Santa in Virginia's story brings a bag of gifts. Inside that bag is a mix of traditional and mainstream items. Virginia's present from Santa is one of the dolls you see in his bag (image from illustrator, Ellen Beier's website):



Beier's illustrations are terrific. See more of them here. She did a lot of research and work that helped her create the images that beautifully capture Virginia's story.

I hope Holiday House has more of Virginia's stories in the works. If you're still looking for a gift for someone, consider getting a copy of The Christmas Coat right away. Get two! One to give this year, and another copy for next year, too, for another child.

 The Christmas Coat was featured on NPR earlier this week.

Details:
The Christmas Coat: Memories of My Sioux Childhood
Written by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve, illustrated by Ellen Beier
Published in 2011 by Holiday House
Support independent, Native-owned bookstores! Order it from Birchbark Books

The Christmas Coat won the 2011 Youth Literature Award from the American Indian Library Association. 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

AICL listed on HORN BOOK "Kids, books, and blogs" page

Back before The Horn Book redesigned its website, American Indians in Children's Literature was amongst the blogs it listed on its "Kids, books, and blogs" page. I grabbed a screen shot of it from its archive and am sharing it here. As far as I can tell, they haven't recreated the page on their new site.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Native students rebut ABC's "Children of the Plains"

In October of 2011, ABC broadcast "Children of the Plains" on its 20/20 program. Watching the promos for it, I shook my head. Diane Sawyer gave her viewers a very narrow program that did little to portray Native youth in the fullness of their existence.

Today (December 13, 2011) I'm sharing a rebuttal to Sawyer.

Please watch More Than That, and share it with as many people as you can. Those of you who work with children's literature in some way, keep this video in mind when you're reviewing books. We need literature that reflects the entirety of who we are rather than an outsiders romantic or derogatory misconception.

More Than That...  
by students at Todd County High School
Mission, South Dakota




Update: 6:15 AM, Wednesday, December 14, 2011

After posting the video yesterday, I watched some of the other videos the students have on Youtube. They do a video news broadcast at their school. That's what the first part of the video below shows, but the second half is a series of outtakes. While More Than That... blew me away, 12-12-11 (below) made me smile. These students are terrific! Right now, the school features More Than That... on their homepage.

12-12-11 Falcon News
Todd County High School
Mission, South Dakota


Wednesday, December 07, 2011

MY NAME IS NOT EASY... on Kindle Fire?

This news is interesting! If I read it right, I think that Debby Dahl Edwardson's My Name is Not Easy is going to be available on Kindle...

The press release says something about "the brilliant touchstone screen" of Kindle Fire. I wonder if they plan to add images to Debby's book?

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

New book by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve!

Just saw something I must check out! Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve has a new book out... 

Read about it at Cynsations, where Cynthia Leitich Smith has an interview with the illustrator, Ellen Beier.

What I find intriguing about the cover is the children in traditional clothing looking at the Christmas tree. If you were at my mom and dad's home at Nambe Pueblo on Christmas Eve, you'd see something like that....  Those of us who were dancing that night would be in traditional clothes, and, there'd be a Christmas tree there, too.

Definitely looking forward to reading it!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I'm taking a much needed break for a couple of weeks...  

I'll be back, though! See you then! 

Friday, November 18, 2011

"Indian Children" by Annette Wynne

Today's post is prompted by a comment submitted to me by Brendan, a regular reader of AICL. The comment was submitted via the "Contact AICL" button in the tool bar above.

In 1919, Annette Wynne's For Days and Days: A Year Round Treasury of Child Verse was published. In it is a poem that is easily found today. That poem is "Indian Children." You can find it, as Brendan did, on teacher lesson plan sites. When I started looking around, I saw that you can also find Youtube videos of children reciting it.

The poem tells us that American Indians no longer exist. You could read the poem as a lament, or you could read it as a celebration. Either way, it doesn't matter. The bottom line for Wynne, and, I suspect, for teachers who use it today, is that we are no longer here. We are, of course, alive and well.

Here it is:
Indian Children
by Annette Wynne

Where we walk to school each day
Indian children used to play-
All about our native land,
Where the shops and houses stand.

Note "we" in the first line and "our" in the third line. Neither word includes Native children. Both refer to white children and their families who now claim the land. What does a teacher tell her students about where those Indian children went? And, what does she tell them about how that land became theirs?

And the trees were very tall,
And there were no streets at all,
Not a church and not a steeple-
Only woods and Indian people.

References to religious structures and houses and shops, but not banks. Or saloons...  A pristine, but incomplete image.

Only wigwams on the ground,
And at night bears prowling round-
What a different place today
Where we live and work and play!

If read as a lament, there is sadness that there are no longer wigwams and bears. No mention, in that stanza, of the children mentioned in the first stanza. If read as a celebration, there is gladness that there are no longer wigwams and bears.

A troubling poem, no matter how you slice it. Do you know someone who uses it? Do you know how and why it is used?


Another thought: The title doesn't fit the poem! It isn't about Indian children. Can you suggest a new title for it?


Slapin's review of Debby Dahl Edwardson's MY NAME IS NOT EASY



Below is Beverly Slapin's review of Debby Dahl Edwardson's My Name is Not Easy.  It may not be reprinted elsewhere without her written permission. All rights reserved.
--------------------------------------- 

Edwardson, Debby Dahl, My Name Is not Easy. Marshall Cavendish, 2011; grades 7-up


The elders say the earth has turned over seven times, pole to pole,
north to south.
Freezing and thawing, freezing and thawing,
flipping over and tearing apart.
Changing everything.

We were there.
We were always there.
They say no one survived the ice age but they’re wrong.
There were seven ice ages and we survived.
We survived them all….


The residential schools run by the Bureau of Indian Affairs or various church denominations were established in Alaska in the 1920s. Until 1976, when the Molly Hootch settlement required the State of Alaska to establish local schools all over the state—even in the remote “bush” regions—Alaskan Native children were sent to these residential schools that were hundreds or even thousands of miles away from their homes and families. Being away for years at a time resulted in cultural ties and intergenerational relationships broken, and languages and ways of seeing the world unlearned. The wounds were deep and the scars remain. For the most part, people still don’t talk about their residential school experiences.

The young man we come to know as “Luke” does not say his Iñupiaq name because it’s “not easy” for white people to pronounce. Along with other Iñupiaq, Yup’ik, Athabascan and some white young people, he and his brothers have been sent to “Sacred Heart,” a Catholic residential school for children who live in the Far North.

There, spanning the period from 1960-1964, the lives of the Iñupiaq, Yup’ik and Athabascan students are turned upside down as they struggle to survive the harsh climate of the residential school. A harsh climate that includes heartache and loneliness. That includes the isolation of being thrust into an unknown place, away from home and family and everything that has meaning. That includes being forbidden to speak their languages. That includes being severely punished for minor infractions. That includes a system of being abducted and given in adoption to white families. That includes being forced to ingest radioactive iodine in an “investigation” of why “Eskimos” do so well in cold weather.

Edwardson’s writing is crisp and clean, and middle readers will hear the voices of the students, who need not interrupt the narrative to explain their cultures. The way Luke, for instance, sees the world—his cultural logic—is the way it is. This world that is Sacred Heart, far from home, is an alien world. Luke says:

This place is not right. You’re supposed to be able to see things when you’re outside. You’re supposed to be able to look out across the tundra and see caribou, flickering way off in the sunlight, geese flying low next to the horizon, the edge of the sky running around you like the rim of a bowl. Everything wide open and full of possibility. How can you even tell where you’re going in a place like this? How can you see the weather far enough to tell what’s coming?
….

Back home there’s a breeze coming in off the ocean ice, and I wish I could feel its cool breath on my sweaty neck right now. Wish I was sitting in a boat with chunks of ocean ice just sort of hanging there in between the smooth water and the cloudless sky—drifting with their reflections white and ghost-like against the glassy water…. How can anybody breathe in a place where there is no wind, no open sky, no ocean, no family? Nothing worth counting?

While My Name Is not Easy is fiction, the stories and events are essentially true. Luke’s and his brothers’ experiences are based on those of Edwardson’s husband, George, and his brothers at Copper Valley, a residential school that enrolled some whites as well as Iñupiaq, Yup’ik and Athabascan students. The historic events—the military’s horrific experiments with iodine-131, the massive 9.2 Good Friday earthquake, the act of civil disobedience known as the “Barrow Duck-In,” and Project Chariot, the proposed detonation to demonstrate the “peaceful use of nuclear power”—all happened.

But something else happened in the Alaskan residential schools, something that the government and church authorities probably never intended: the way the students—“Eskimo” and “Indian”—came together, the way that family was created, the unexpected thing that changed the force of history in the state, that drove the land claims movement and other political changes that gave Alaska Natives political power. “Across the state,” Debby Edwardson told me, “there’s a generation of pretty powerful leaders. George, for instance, who was known as ‘Pea Soup,’ is now tribal president.”

The younger generation of Iñupiat, she said, “has grown up with the pain of loss of the language because their parents and grandparents were punished for using it.” As in the rest of the country and Canada, New Zealand and Australia, language revitalization efforts continue, and “we are working on a language immersion preschool program that will also create an indigenous teacher track for educational strategies specific to our communities. So, in a sense, we are actually decolonizing the language and trying to heal so much pain.” 

My Name Is not Easy is really a political coming-of-age story; what starts out as Luke’s personal narrative ends as a community narrative. It’s only in the last pages that we’re told Luke’s Iñupiaq name. As Aamaugak reclaims his name, he, as the duck hunters of Barrow had, leads an act of civil disobedience that unites the students who, ultimately, come to realize that what brings them together is more powerful than what separates them.

The young students here are courageous. They’ve learned how to survive. “Yes, we learned,” Luke says. “We learned how not to talk in Iñupiaq and how to eat strange food and watch, helpless, while they took our brother away.” They’ve learned to withstand Father Mullen’s vicious beatings and “the words Father says that sting worse than the blows.” And they’ve learned, as Amiq and Sonny have, how to laugh softly, “when something bad happens and there’s nothing left to do but laugh.”

Here, Debby Dahl Edwardson relates the students’ stories with honesty and beauty—and without polemic, without hyperbole, without expository digressions, without the need that lesser writers seem to have to teach something. My Name Is not Easy is an antidote to Ann Rinaldi’s toxic My Heart Is on the Ground and all the other middle reader novels that romanticize “Eskimos” and “Indians,” and minimize the pain of the residential schools. Thank you, Debby.


We
were here.
We were always here,
hanging on where others couldn’t,
marking signs where others wouldn’t,
counting kin our own way. We
survived. The earth
can’t shake
us.


—Beverly Slapin


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Tune in tomorrow...


That sounds odd, "Tune in tomorrow"  --- but if you can, tune in tomorrow at 6:30 PM EST to Blog Talk Radio's Is That Your Child where I'll be the guest...

And, apologies for the lack of updates to AILC. Stuff happens.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Beverly Slapin's review of WOLF MARK, by Joseph Bruchac


Below is Beverly Slapin's review of Joseph Bruchac's new book, Wolf Mark.  It may not be reprinted elsewhere without her written permission. All rights reserved.
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Bruchac, Joseph, Wolf Mark. Lee & Low, 2011, grades 7-up

Joe Bruchac is not yet known for his YA werewolf/vampire/espionage novels, but this talented writer can sure pull off the genre(s). Middle readers who have the ability to suspend disbelief will relate to the teen protagonist, an Abenaki wolf-boy with multiple challenges. Such as doing well in school and winning over the girl he really likes. Such as keeping himself from ripping out someone’s throat when he’s annoyed or angry. Such as rescuing his father from a megalomaniac gene-blending scientist who’s plotting to take over the world.

In Wolf Mark, everything is extreme: the action, the gore, the metaphors, the allusions to uncontrolled corporate greed that threatens to devour us all. And amidst all of this, Bruchac takes every opportunity to bust stereotypes: about American Indians, about women, about Muslims, about Russians, about werewolves and vampires.

In what may be a parody of badly written YA novels featuring Indian protagonists who abruptly break the narrative in order to insert for young non-Indian readers the supposedly required ethnographic expositions, our Abenaki wolf-boy hero breaks his narrative in order to posit a Freudian analysis of himself: “Was that bloodthirsty, drooling monster a virtual manifestation of my own out-of-control animal nature? Or an archetype? Not a creature threatening me from outside but the beast within?” Or maybe it’s a parody of such paragons of horror as H.P. Lovecraft.

Not dissimilar to what Thomas King did in Green Grass, Running Water, Bruchac places an allusion, covert or overt, on almost every page. There are snippets from poems cleverly disguised as the narrator’s own words and not-so-hidden references to “Little Shop of Horrors” and “Rocky and Bullwinkle.” There’s a nod to the wisdom of Pogo. There’s a melding of Jack Kerouac and Jack London, and of Lon Chaney and Dick Cheney. There are quotes from Shakespeare, Stephen King and Joe Friday; lyrics from “The Wizard of Oz,” Piledriver and Bob Dylan; and rewriting of some of the winning entrants from the Bulwer-Lytton bad prose contests (my favorite being “a constellation of zits”). And, in homage to Thomas King, Bruchac gives his name to the protagonist’s father.

This reader wildly careened between being breathlessly swept up in the action and deflecting mixed metaphors and movie plots. And loved every minute.

The end, of course, is entirely predictable, yet ultimately satisfying. Sort of like when you’re sucking the last bit of vanilla ice cream down the bottom of a sugar cone after you’ve bitten off the tip.

So, Joe, when’s the sequel coming out and when do you expect Spielberg to call?

—Beverly Slapin





Wednesday, November 02, 2011

New resource online: INDIANS OF THE MIDWEST

Yesterday, the Newberry Library in Chicago launched a new online resource: Indians of the Midwest. I spent hours going through it, learning some things, and finding it an excellent source of information.

If you go to the site right now (I imagine the graphic will change over time), you'll see photos that cycle from one to the other. One is an 1842 drawing of a Menominee village. Immediately following it is a photograph of an Ojibwe neighborhood in Bad River, Wisconsin. It makes the point that Native peoples of today live in houses, much like anyone else.

The site is multi-media and very user-friendly. There is, for example, an "Ask a Question" option. If you submit a question, it will be answered on the page. Rather than go on about its merits, I'll just send you right over to Indians of the Midwest.


Sunday, October 30, 2011

New (to me) publisher: Inhabit Media, Inc.

Sitting here on my couch this morning, I've come across the website for an Inuit-owned publishing house called Inhabit Media, Inc. located in Iquluit, Nunavut.  Using interlibrary loan, I've ordered a handful of their books and look forward to reading them.

Here's a couple from their catalog:



Thursday, October 27, 2011

Eric Carle's illustrations for TALES OF THE NIMIPOO

I like a lot of Eric Carle's books. I used The Very Hungry Caterpillar when I taught kindergarten and first grade. I read books he wrote and illustrated to my daughter, and I give them as gifts.

I was surprised, this morning, to learn that he had done illustrations for Tales of the Nimipoo from the Land of the Nez Perce by Eleanor B. Heady.

For one of my courses at SJSU I've been thinking about collection development. In that thought-space I visited the Awful Library Books blog, and went through one of their slide shows about weeding.

That led me to wonder what the oldest book about American Indians in a local library might be. I searched that local library's holdings and that is how I came across Tales of the Nimipoo from the Land of the Nez Perce. They do have it on the shelf, even though it is pretty old. It came out in 1970. When the library opens later today, I'll drive over there and check it out. 

Let's consider the title for a moment.

"Nimipoo" is Hardy's spelling of Nimi'ipuu, which is what the Nez Perce people call themselves. There's a good bit of info about the word on the website for the Nez Perce Tribe. We could say it is cool that Heady included Nimipoo in her title. It shows that she knows the people had their own name for themselves.  It is a bit awkward, though, to have both Nimipoo and Nez Perce in the title. Hopefully there will be a note in the book that explains her use of Nimipoo.

Next, let's consider the word "Tales" in the title. That one is a major problem for me...  Are these "tales" or are they traditional stories? Are they creation stories? If so, the book belongs on the shelf with creation stories of other world religions. What I am pointing to is problems in classification, wherein some people are "folk" and have "quaint" stories while others receive a different treatment in the classification system.

I'll let you know what I find when I get the book.

--------------------------------
Update: November 1, 2011

Ok---got the book, read through the intro, read some of the stories. My conclusion? It is old, dated, and though the author is well-intentioned, her bias comes through. In the intro, for example, she says that the Nimipoo people have a dictionary where they use "tepees" instead of the term she uses, "tipis." Seems to me that using their spelling would confer a strong support and respect for them and their work in creating that dictionary. She thanks a couple of Nimipoo people for sharing their stories with her, and, she mentions stories in the archives at Washington State University.  The intro is date July 1969, which is, of course, way before critical essays like those by Betsy Hearne that ask authors to cite their sources, and respect those sources, too.  My suggestion? If you still have this in your library, weed it.

As far as Eric Carle's illustrations go, they're black and white and completely in keeping with his well-recognized style. Here's one page:




















And here's another! I wonder if any reviewers noted that the woman is not dressed?!






Monday, October 24, 2011

Video: WAPOS BAY

I've just come across what looks to be an absolutely stunning video series called Wapos Bay. Set in the present day, the stop-motion animation format features a Cree family. I've watched several clips on YouTube. Some are in English, and some are in Cree. (By the way, from what I've seen so far, the episodes in Cree far surpass the Lakota versions of the Berenstein Bears that are getting a lot of press right now.)

With the upcoming release of Breaking Dawn, here's one timely clip from the episode "Too Deadly" Brotherhood of Vampire Killers":


Check out the Wapos Bay website. Enter the site by clicking on the television set and you'll be taken to an interactive page for kids to click around on. Once I get a copy of the series, I'll write more about it. For right now, I'm really impressed. If you've seen it, please submit a comment below. And if you want to order the series, it is available from Native American Public Telecommunications.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Lesson Plan: WHERE DID YOU GET YOUR MOCCASINS

While working as a librarian, Kathleen Horning of the CCBC, recommended children's books about American Indians whenever she could. For example, she recommended Bernelda Wheeling's Where Did You Get Your Moccasins whenever someone was looking for a story about grandparents, or a book about "where things come from" or one about clothing.

Among its many strengths is that Where Did You Get Your Moccasins is about a Native child of today.

If you work with preschool or kindergarten children and you're interested in a lesson plan for the book, Montana's Indian Ed for All developed one that spans five days. Click here to download a pdf of the lesson plan [note that it also has lesson plans for three other books: 1) The Gift of the Bitteroot, 2) Beaver Steals Fire, and 3) The War Shirt]. The lesson plans provide information about the author and illustrator and are keyed to content standards for the state of Montana.

Ginny Moore Kruse's 1992 article on Multicultural Literature

This morning I'm re-reading, Ginny Moore Kruse's 1992 article "No Single Season: Multicultural Literature for All Children" (published in Wilson Library Bulletin, volume 66) Here's what Ginny wrote (the article does not include the illustration I've added here):
A well-known picture book provides one example of a typical blunder. Amazing Grace, by British book creators Mary Hoffman and Caroline Binch (U.S. edition: Dial, 1991), involves the indomitable Grace, a black child missing two front teeth but full of spunk and the capacity to dream. Grace loves stories, and she plays out the stories she's read or been told. Overall Amazing Grace is a welcome story about the power of story in an exuberant contemporary girl's daily imaginative play, about the appeal of the classics, and about self-esteem. Grace pretends to be people recognizable to some readers as from British, European, American, and African history and literature--people such as Joan of Arc, Anansi the Spider, Mowgli, and...Hiawatha. Are the book's multiple themes so welcome that the act of "playing Indian" escaped comment by most U.S. reviewers...that critics relaxed their standards for evaluation? No, such images recur so frequently that when they do, nobody notices. Well, almost nobody but the children who in real life are Indian.

Claiming that only American Indian children are apt to notice "playing Indian," "sitting Indian style," or picture book animals "dressed up" like American Indians does not excuse the basic mistake. Self-esteem is decreased for the affected peoples, and accurate portrayals are skewed for everyone else.
Well said, Ginny! Here's another terrific excerpt about how librarians can broaden the knowledge base of their patrons:
Perceiving the value of a book from several perspectives and for more than one audience, purpose, or use has long been a strength of good reviewers, perceptive children's librarians, and experienced school library media specialists. Kathleen Horning spoke of the day-to-day benefits of her firsthand knowledge of multicultural literature at the Association for Library Service to Children Preconference, "The Many Faces in Children's Books," held prior to the 1991 American Library Association Annual Conference. A children's librarian at the Madison (Wisconsin) Public Library, Horning told how Bernelda Wheeler's picture book Where Did You Get Your Moccasins? (Pemmican Press, 1986) has library and general user potential beyond its unique cultural content. She suggests the title when adults or children ask for a book with a school setting, or a story about a grandparent, or for information on "where something comes from," or books on clothing. If Horning had pigeonholed the book as one for use only when American Indian materials are needed, readers requesting her advisory services would lose a multifaceted book.
November is approaching, and given its designation as "Native American Month" teachers and librarians will be sharing American Indian stories with children. I encourage teachers, librarians, and parents to heed what Horning said.  

Monday, October 17, 2011

Popular searches at the Smithsonian website

A few minutes ago I was at the Smithsonian's "CollectionsSearchCenter" page studying how they classify photographs (doing this for my Information Retrieval course at SJSU).

At the bottom of the page there is a list of popular searches. The format of the image is familiar, with more popular searches shown in larger font.

The program that does that list for them shows 21 popular searches. One is Cheyenne Indians, and the other is "american+indians". I wonder who is doing all that searching, and why? And, I wonder what that list looks like, say, in February? Would Martin Luther King be in the top 21?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Debby Dahl Edwardson's MY NAME IS NOT EASY is a finalist for the National Book Award!


A hearty congratulations to Debby Dahl Edwardson! Today (October 12, 2011), her outstanding My Name is Not Easy was named as a finalist for the National Book Award! Here's a book trailer about her book:



 In addition to the page at the NBA site, take a look at Debby's website. I'll add blog posts and news articles about the book as I find them.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Maurice Sendak's BUMBLE-ARDY

From the children's lit community to the Wall Street Journal, people are talking about Maurice Sendak's new book, Bumble-Ardy. Some readers like it, while others do not. Sendak first introduced the main character on a clip on Sesame Street years ago. In the clip, Bumble-Ardy is a nine year old boy has a birthday party at his house.



In the book, Sendak changes Bumble-Ardy into a pig, and when the pigs come to his house, it is by an invitation from Bumble-Ardy in which he says they must come in costume.

A few days ago, friend and colleague Thomas Crisp wrote to let me know that Sendak's illustrations in Bumble-Ardy include a character whose costume is of the playing-Indian type. Here's a close up:


That is from the first time we see that character.  Many things to comment on, but let's stick with the costumes. Below is the full two-page spread when we first see the pigs in costume.

Help me figure out who or what they are! (I apologize for the overlap of the photo into the right column... If you want to see an even larger image, click on the photo. It should open just the photo in a new page.) Some of the pigs are wearing masks that cover their pig face; others do not wear masks. To varying degrees, they are just plain ridiculous.

If you've got some ideas and time to share them, write to me by using the "Contact AICL" button in the tool bar above, the comment box below, or by email.

 From left to right:

 1.  Clown, no mask
 2.  Kind of reminds me of Groucho Marx, but no mustache. He is holding a balloon.
 3.  Wearing a skirt and an orange sweater, but that mask?!
 4.  Disheveled man with a cigar
 5.  Lost pig (holding sign), no mask
 6.  Rich lady (mask) and little pig (no mask)
 7.  Pirate
 8.  Pig-in-a-blanket
 9.  Like #3, I can't figure this one out. Wearing a dress but what is up with that mask?
10. Tiara and eye mask... (being ridden by #9)
11.  Indian
12.  Bearded policeman, no mask. What does that beard signify?
13.  Court jester, no mask

Once I get a better idea of who the characters are dressed as, we can go on to do some analysis of the costuming.

By the way, Sendek is an old-hand, so to speak, at stereotyping American Indians. Remember his alphabet book, Alligator's All Around? The "Imitating Indians" page? The book was first published in 1962 by Harper and Row as one of four books packaged as "The Nutshell Library."








On the I page, we see two alligators who, the text tells us, are "Imitating Indians." There are many problems with the page. First, imagine what the response would be if the alligators were imitating a different racial or ethnic group! Second, most readers of AICL know that the word "Indian" obscures the diversity that exists across the over 500 American Indian Nations in the U.S. today.  Third, the page suggests that Indians wear multi-colored feathered headdresses, and carry tomahawks and smoke peace pipes. And of course, they do that and everything else with stern or stoic expressions. And, let's not forget that they raise an arm to say "how" (cuz that's how Indians say hello... NOT).

Sadly for us all, Sendak is still giving us stereotyped Indians.



Sunday, October 09, 2011

Great news! Richard Van Camp's THE LESSER BLESSED in production

Last week, auditions were held for parts in Richard Van Camp's outstanding novel, The Lesser Blessed.

This movie is one to keep an eye on...  Here's the website: The Lesser Blessed.

Friday, October 07, 2011

MY NAME IS NOT EASY, by Debby Dahl Edwardson

Yesterday I read Debby Dahl Edwardson's My Name Is Not Easy. It is a powerful novel, moving me in the same ways that Joseph Bruchac's Hidden Roots did.  Powerful governmental institutions did some really horrible things to Indigenous people.

My Name Is Not Easy is one of those novels that brings those horrible events to a wide audience. Joe wrote about sterilization in his novel; Debby writes about using Alaska Native children in boarding schools to conduct experiments involving radioactive iodine. I didn't know about those tests.

There's more, too. A child being taken from his family, abuse at the hands of a Catholic priest...

Because of the story itself, and the power and grace and beauty of Debby's writing as she recounts this family story, I highly recommend My Name Is Not Easy, and it will be one of the books I discuss when I do workshops and talks with teachers and librarians.

Read Debby's blog to see where she'll be speaking about the book. There, you'll also find contact information. Invite her to speak at your school. She lives in Alaska, but does Skype visits, too.

See a video of Debby's husband at a post from October of 2011

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Horn Book Magazine, 1959

I'm in Santa Fe at the state library doing homework for one of my MLIS courses. Setting that work aside for a few minutes to peruse the shelves, I've come across The Horn Book Magazine. On the open shelves, they've got issues going waaaaaaay back, so, I pulled out the issue for the month and year of my birth. A bit egocentric, I admit....  Here's what I see:

To the right is the cover for the April issue. The illustration is used on all covers (1959 and 1960) in the box I pulled. And here's the short list of articles in the February issue:

A New Look at Heroes of the Southwest, by Camilla Campbell
Theodore Roosevelt and Children's Books, by Peggy Sullivan
A Children's Literary Tour of Great Britain, by Joan H. Bodger

Course, given the topic of AICL, I'm intrigued by the first article. Heroes of the Southwest? Heroes for who, I wonder?  Turning the page, I see an illustration at the of the title page. It shows three men on horses. The horses are drinking from a river. The men are wearing uniforms. The table of contents tells me that it is a drawing by Harve Stein for Coronado and His Captains. That book was written by Camilla Campbell, the author of the article, A New Look at Heroes of the Southwest. I'll get to the article in a minute, but for now, I'll keep on with my page-by-page study of the issue.

The Hunt Breakfast on page 2 tells me that Campbell was born and raised in Texas. Her article is an edited version of a talk she gave at the Texas Library Association on March 29th, 1958. Coronado and His Captains is reviewed in this issue.

Page 6 is an ad for the World Book Encyclopedia. At the top of the page is an illustration that includes a totem pole, a newspaper, an airplane, an oil derrick, a lake...  I wonder what the encyclopedia entry for totem pole says?

Page 7 has an ad for Thomas Nelson & Sons. It includes:
  • Painted Pony Runs Away written and illustrated by Jessie Brewer McGaw. It is "an exciting story about a runaway pony told in authentic Indian pictographs."  
  • Protector of the Indians by Evan Jones. Illustrated by George Fulton, it is an "absorbing biography of the Indian's first friend, Bartolome de Las Casas. 
Authentic Indian pictographs? Hmmm...  I wonder how "authentic" was being used then? de Las Casas did document a lot of atrocities that don't get much ink in children's books about contact between indigenous peoples and the Spanish.

Page 8 is about Macmillan Books for Boys and Girls, Spring, 1959. It includes:
  • Xingu by Violette and John Viertel. Illustrated by Karla Kuskin, "this touching story of a little Indian boy and his animal friends has the universal appeal of a children's classic." 
  • The Mystery of the Aztec Idol by Harriett H. Carr is about an American boy who visits Mexico and "discovers a valuable relic eagerly sought by many people."
"Universal" is a tricky word...  I'd like to see that book. What universal value does it appeal to? Is there such a thing? And that Aztec idol...  I'd like to see that book, too. It makes me think of an episode of the Brady Bunch!

Page 13 is the ad page for The World Publishing Company. They feature Indians written and illlustrated by Edwin Tunis. In it, he "re-creates the everyday life of the American Indian before the arrival of the white man. A treasure house of a book which presents every aspect of Indian life in lively text and more than 230 drawings." Wow! Sounds comprehensive. I wonder if Tunis distinguishes one tribal nation from another?

On page 16 is another illustration by Stein for Coronado and his Captains. It shows Coronado's route from Mexico city and up into Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. Campbell's article starts on page 17. I'll study and write about it later.

The "Late Winter Booklist" of recommended (and reviewed) books starts on page 31. "Spanish Heroes in the New World" starts on page 38. That is where Coronado and his Captains and Protector of the Indians are reviewed. So is Maud Hart Lovelace's What Cabrillo Found (he "found" California).

On page 74 is information about the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, a new award given by the University of Wisconsin School of Education and state organizations in Wisconsin. Publishers submit titles and a committee of librarians, teachers, parents, and writers selected 16 books. Among them is Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House in the Big Woods. I've written about that book before... it is the one in which Pa, as a child, played at hunting Indians. On page 53, Wilder wrote:
I began to play I was a mighty hunter, stalking the wild animals and the Indians. 
I don't think K.T. Horning at CCBC would select that book today.

Finishing my page-by-page study of the February issue, I see more ads on the closing pages. Julian Messner's list includes a book by David C. Cooke, called Tecumseh: Destiny's Warrior, and Robin McKown's Painter of the Wild West: Frederick Remington.  Hastings House offered Red Eagle by Shannon Garst, illustrated by Hubert Buel. The ad says it is a "true-to-life story of how a Plains Indian boy overcomes his handicaps and becomes a brave. Based on actual facts about the Sioux." Farrar, Straus & Cudahy were pushing Kit Carson of the Old West by Mark Boesch, illustrated by Joshua Tolford. It is a "sparkling" biography about Kit Carson's career, which included "Indian scout."

That's it for now... I've gotta run to the copy machine to copy Campbell's article. The library closes in 25 minutes. Sorry for typos, lack of clarity, etc. in my rush to load this post.


Friday, September 23, 2011

Another pair of eyeglasses...

I am enjoying my courses as a student San Jose State's School of Library and Information Science. Prior to this, I felt proficient using a handful of databases, but I'm learning just how much I do not know about databases...  From ones I've never used to learning how to develop one...  At times it is overwhelming, and my blog posts are definitely impacted by my need to study and get homework done.

Today, I'm sitting at the Pueblo of Pojoaque Public Library, using their computers for some surfing. Next week I'll deliver an online lecture to Minjie Chin's class at UIUC's Graduate School of Library and Information Science. I enter both spaces as a person with more knowledge about libraries than I had prior to beginning my coursework. You might say I've added another pair of eyeglasses that I'll be using from now on.

That said, I highly recommend Mitali Perkin's How to Write Fiction Without The "Right" Ethnic Credentials. She's speaking directly to writers but much of what she says can be used by anyone who is thinking about books and American Indians.  Reading her essay, and AICL, can give you another pair of eyeglasses, too, to use as you work with children's and young adult literature.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

AWESIINYENSAG, Wiigwaas Press, and the Minnesota's Best Read for 2011

This is terrific news! Awesiinyensag, a book published by Heid and Louise Erdrich's Wiigwaas Press, was selected as Minnesota's Best Read for 2011. That means the book will represent the state of Minnesota at the National Book Festival in Washington D.C.

As you might glean from reading the title, the text is not in English. Here's the blurb:
Awesiinyensag presents original stories, written in Anishinaabemowin, that delight readers and language learners with the antics of animals who playfully deal with situations familiar to children in all cultures. Suitable for all ages, this book can be read aloud, assigned to classes, shared at language tables, gifted to elders, and enjoyed by those curious about the language and all who love Anishinaabemowin.

Authored by a team of twelve and richly illustrated by Ojibwe artist Wesley Ballinger, Awesiinyensag will be the first in a series created to encourage learning Anishinaabemowin, the language of Ojibwe people.

The book will provide a challenge to those of us who do not speak Anishinaabemowin, but if you've got students in your classrooms or school who do speak that language, it will be a treasure. Or, if you've got students who loved the language they found in Erdrich's Birchbark House, you could get Awesiinyensag for them.  Get it at Birchbark Books. Among the authors included are Nancy Jones, Eugene Stillday, Rose Tainter, Anna Gibbs, Marlene Stately, Anton Treuer, Keller Paap, Lisa LaRonge, Michael Sullivan, John Nichols, Lucia Bonacci, and Heather Fairbanks.

An aside: On her Facebook page, Heid Erdrich noted that when you search Google using Awesiinyensag, Google asks "Did you mean: Awesomeness." For a lot of us, AWESOME perfectly captures the book and the press, too.   

Monday, September 05, 2011

Julie Luecke on Nora Raleigh Baskin's THE SUMMER BEFORE BOYS

Julie Luecke, an Associate Professor of Education at Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin, wrote to tell me about Nora Raleigh Baskin's The Summer Before Boys. I'm ordered a copy of the book and will write about it as soon as I can. In the meantime, here's what Julie said:
Another profound disappointment - The Summer Before Boys, the newest book by Nora Raleigh Baskin. Baskin has written insightfully in other books about the Jewish-American experience (The Truth About My Bat Mitzvah) and Autism (Anything but Typical, which won the Schneider Family Book Award), but here she disappoints. The story is set at the "Mohawk Mountain Lodge." Early in the novel there is a reference to reading the Little House books, and then at several points as friends Julia and Eliza pretend to be characters from the past, they imagine sneaking through the mountains to avoid being captured or scalped by "Indians." Sorry, I didn't keep track of page numbers. It's stunning to me that an author of this caliber and her editor/publisher, etc think this is appropriate in 2011.
Some will argue that Baskin is giving readers an accurate portrayal of her characters. Some might say that they see themselves in Baskin's twelve-year-old protagonists, Julia and Eliza.  Are you someone who, at age 12, pretended you were Laura, afraid of being scalped?

-------------
Update, Tuesday, Sept 6, 8:32 AM: 
Baskin submitted two comments in response to Leucke. She submitted the first one as herself, and the second one came in as "Anonymous" but was signed by her. I am pasting both of them below (with time stamps affixed when her comments were submitted). As Baskin notes, she is going to see if she can make changes in the paperback. If the publisher agrees to the changes, I hope that a page-of-explanation is also included in the book, explaining how and why the changes were made. Given her publishing record, Ms. Baskin is quite influential and can therefore effect a lot of change in others if she is able to get the changes done and the page-of-explanation included. I imagine it may be something she will share in one-on-one interactions and gatherings with fellow authors.  In my view, she joins Garth Nix as a thoughtful writer who gets it.  

Baskin's comment on Monday, September 5, 6:45 PM: you are right..and I feel so confused and bad about this. I am very very conscious of the Native American vs Indian terminology. It is also ironic given how I feel about the treatment of native americans in our country ..then and now.

My editor and I did discuss it..and sometimes a decision is made NOT as the author or publisher but as the character in the book. .in terms of the symbolism and authentic voice, and other considerations. But hearing your review deeply affects me. ..I wish there were something I could do. Perhaps I can. 
very sincerely,
nora raleigh baskin

Baskin's comment on Tuesday, September 6, 8:01 AM:. .I was up all night with this blog on my mind, tossing and turning. All I can say is that I've had my eyes opened..And those being eyes I thought were already opened!
I know if I were to read something (even IN character) about Jews or the holocaust that cast a negative or stereotypical slant..I would take it deeply personally.

so, again..you are right. It is a tricky line..character realism vs what I as a human being want to put out into the world.

I am going to see what i can do about the paperback..if someone can perhaps contact me privately ..so I can get it right. I do care very much.. 
thank you
nora

Update, Thursday, Jan 25, 2018:
Baskin submitted a new comment (pasted here), indicating changes have been made to her book. My response is below her comment.


Baskin's comment on Thursday, Jan 25, 2018:  Not sure if better late than never applies here..but hopefully it does.. . A reprint is scheduled and the changes have been made to repair the offensive and hurtful reference in my book. As well, I have been sharing my tone-deafness and my journey to repairing it with students I speak to. It's not easy but I think it's important for them to hear and understand.  
I am not a fan of the angry, vitriolic call-out culture (to put it mildly) but I am more than grateful and appreciative of thoughtful criticism.  
Thank you.. 
nora raleigh baskin


January 25, 2018
Dear Ms. Baskin,

Thank you for what you said in your comment. The change is important, and it is great to hear that you talk about this with students. It is important to them and to other writers, to know that we can admit mistakes and talk about those mistakes with others. That's an educational response that we need to see more and more so that the mistakes decrease, overall.

I doubt that anyone likes being spoken to by someone who is angry about something they've done. Anger is a genuine emotion. It embodies not just the moment that invokes it, but the many ones that came before it. I understand that writers are uncomfortable with anger, but I ask that they step outside of their own space and think of their readers and how many times they've been uncomfortable and hurt by the things writers and others write or say about them.

Debbie

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Gertrude Doederlein's LIVING WITH OUR CHILDREN

Scarlett wrote to tell me about a blog post at Awful Library Books in which Holly Hibler (the blogger) wrote about Gertrude Doederlein's Living With Our Children. Part of Hibler's post is about playing Indian. Published in 1941, the book is old. I wish it reflects a past and practice that no longer occurs, but readers of American Indians in Children's Literature know the practice is still with us today... 

Mercer Meyer's JUST ME AND MY MOM

Bummer! (Using that word dates me, eh?!)

Susan Santee-Buenger at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire wrote to tell me about this page in Mercer Meyer's Just Me and My Mom. When my daughter was little, we had--and enjoyed--several of the Little Critter books.


In this part of the book, Little Critter and his mom are at a natural history museum. Meyer is not alone in putting American Indians in natural history museums...  He does, in fact, reflect a reality. Putting us there is a problem! American Indians are often found in natural history museums with the dinosaurs and the bears...  Remember this page from Danny and the Dinosaur


Placing us in natural history museums is a problem! Placing us alongside dinosaurs suggests that is the proper time frame for us to be presented. It isn't. It suggests we are extinct. We are not. It suggests we are primitive. We are not. And, placing us alongside animals suggests we are animal-like, and we are not.

Course, maybe authors could interrupt that problem by having characters challenge the status quo. It would be way cool to have Little Critter or his mom say "Why are American Indians here with dinosaurs and animals instead of in a museum with other peoples?" instead of having Little Critter dress up that way...  Or, to have Little Critter ask a docent "what tribe is this supposed to be?!"  Is that too much to ask for? Is it too didactic?

Thursday, September 01, 2011

New book! GRANDPA'S GIRLS by Nicola Campbell

One of my favorite authors, Nicola Campbell, has a new book out. Titled Grandpa's Girls, I can't wait to see it! Here's the blurb from Groundwood (the publisher):
A young girl delights in a visit to her grandpa's farm. She and her cousins run through the fields, explore the root cellar where the salmon and jars of fruit are stored, swing on a rope out the barn loft window, visit the Appaloosa in the corral and tease the neighbor's pig. The visit is also an opportunity for this child to ask Grandpa what her grandmother, Yayah, was like, and to explore the "secret room," with its old wooden trunk of ribbons, medals and photos of Grandpa in uniform. 
Nicola's two previous picture books are set in Canada and are about Native families and the boarding schools Native children in the US and Canada were sent to---not by choice---to learn how not to be Native. Pick up a copy of each one: Shi-shi-etko and Shin-shi's Canoe, and look for Grandpa's Girls! I think my dear friend, Jean, is gonna love it... Here's the cover:





Wednesday, August 31, 2011

CADDIE WOODLAWN... in Chinese

Thanks, Minjie, for writing to tell me that Caddie Woodlawn is being published in China. Here's the cover:

Regular readers of American Indians in Children's Literature may recall my daughter's encounter with Caddie Woodlawn... I wonder if it, like Little House on the Prairie, will be placed on the National Curriculum in China?

(A personal note: I've been away from AICL for 3 weeks to provide round-the-clock care for my mom. She lives on our reservation and doesn't have internet. When I left Nambe on Monday morning, she was more herself than she's been in years. It was a difficult six weeks for all of us with many scary moments, but she's made it through an emergency surgery and an extensive hospital stay, and she's literally dancing down her hallway these days.)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

News about Richard Van Camp's THE LESSER BLESSED

Great news! Richard Van Camp's acclaimed The Lesser Blessed is now available on Kindle.  A couple of years ago, I included his novel in a piece I wrote for School Library Journal. There, I said this about The Lesser Blessed:
"Larry is a teenage Dogrib boy whose life includes alcohol, violence, and sex. Realistically drawn, his story is raw and unsettling, yet, in Van Camp’s skilled hands, the account is not depressing. From start to finish, Larry’s Native culture and history are gracefully infused into the compelling narrative."
Here, I'll say straight up that The Lesser Blessed rocks and I'm glad it is on Kindle. I absolutely love Richard's writing in The Lesser Blessed, but elsewhere, too. Readers of AICL know I've written about several of his books. If you want to know more about him, visit his page at Native Wiki.

For another perspective, visit Teaching Van Camp's The Lesser Blessed to see how Professor Jane Haladay uses his novel in a Native lit course. 

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

New Beginnings and a Million Page Visits

Earlier this week I began coursework in San Jose State University's School of Library and Information Science. Most of you know I've got a PhD in Education and have been on the faculty in American Indian Studies at the University of Illinois (UIUC) for several years.

UIUC is a "Research I" university driven by the "publish or perish" motto. Though I've written many book chapters and articles, the powers-that-be determined I was "not a good fit" for a Research I school. Not the right publishers, not the right articles, and, I wasn't "a good fit" in other ways, too. I'm a teacher at heart, and the work I do with teachers and librarians (including this blog) took time away from getting things published in the right books and journals.

In the end, I was (to use the jargon of a university) "not reappointed" to my position on the faculty. You can bet I was more than a little angry about that decision! But we always have to pick our battles, and I chose to quit fighting the University of Illinois. Those of you that have followed my blog and work since the 90s know that I am a founding member of UIUC's Native American House and its American Indian Studies program. You also know that I played a key role in getting rid of "Chief Illiniwek."

So... I was out of a job and contemplating what to do.

One afternoon while reading the newsletter of the New Mexico Librarian's Association, I saw an advertisement for Circle of Learning, an initiative at San Jose State University by which I could get an MLIS. I applied, got in, and as I noted above, my courses have started! The program itself is completely online. My goal is to establish a tribal library and resource center at Nambe. This degree will help me do that.

A few short weeks ago, I was the teacher giving undergraduates assignments for courses I taught at UIUC. Now, I'm completing assignments. It is quite the turn-about as I try to understand what the instructor wants me to do... 

Nonetheless, I am thoroughly enjoying it!

Due to my mom's illness, my posts to AICL over the last three weeks were very few. That will pick back up, though. I've got many books that I've not yet written about, like Gensler's The Revenant. And, I have more to say about being at ALA in June, too.

One last note for today... The "page visits" count on AICL rolled past one million this weekend. Thank you for reading AICL, for recommending it to students and colleagues, and for returning to it yourself.



Saturday, August 06, 2011

Playing Indian and Catherine Bateson's BEING BEE

A reader of AICL wrote to tell me that the main character in Catherine Bateson's Being Bee plays Indian at one point in the novel. On page 65, Bee puts a feather in her hair:
That made me an Indian so I whooped around for a while and pretended to stalk some buffalo, but then Honey, the dog from next door, spotted me, so she stopped being a buffalo.
Bateson is Australian. Being Bee won the Children's Book Council of Australia Award in 2007. Obviously, Bateson is relying on stereotypes of American Indians that circulate around the world.

Bateson is portraying something that kids do (play Indian). Several weeks ago, I used Survey Monkey to see how common the activity is, not knowing that Survey Monkey's free service only applies to the first 100 responses, which I got within a couple of days.  Survey Monkey would let me see additional responses if I subscribed to their service, which is quite expensive!

I immediately closed the Survey Monkey survey and sent out an email letting people know I'd closed it. Several readers replied, suggesting I use Google's survey option next time. I'm grateful for the suggestion and will look into it.

Reading the 100 responses I got gave me some info about the "play Indian" activity, but it also taught me a bit about constructing surveys. For now, here's a summary.
12 of 100 said they've seen it in the last year. Three provided details. One said it was at a school event at Thanksgiving, and one said it was at a girl scout event and the third one person said it was teens, not young children.

12 of 100 saw it within the last ten years.  One provided details, saying it was at a birthday party for a five-year old.

23 of 100 saw it longer than 10 years ago.

20 of 100 saw it longer than 30 years ago.

33 of 100 respondents said they have never seen a child playing Indian at playtime.  Five said they did see it at a school Thanksgiving event, and two saw it at Halloween.

96 respondents saw the playing Indian activity in the US. Two respondents saw it in Australia and 2 saw it in Canada, with all four seeing it over 10 years ago.

What can we conclude from these responses? I could say that almost 10% of the respondents saw it in the last year. For me, that suggests the activity is common--more common amongst young children than I thought.

I see it at the University of Illinois all the time. Adults put on headdresses to go to Illinois basketball and football games, even though the "Indian" mascot is no longer being used here. There were people in headdresses at the World Cup games. My mother has been ill (her illness is the reason my website was not updated for so long), and as I sat with her in the hospital, I saw a patient watching The Price is Right game show. A contestant (is that the right word?!) was wearing a headdress. And the new fashion trend "hipster" is using a lot of "Indian" motifs...

All-in-all, discouraging.



Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"Buffalo Dusk" by Carl Sandburg

Some years back, I came across "Buffalo Dusk" by Carl Sandburg. The poem is in The Random House Book of Poetry for Children: A Treasury of 572 Poems for Today's Child (1983) selected by Jack Prelutsky and illustrated by Arnold Lobel. Here it is:
The buffaloes are gone.
And those who saw the buffaloes are gone.
Those who saw the buffaloes by thousands and how they
     pawed the prairie sod into dust with their great hoofs,
     their great heads down pawing on in a great pageant of dusk,
Those who saw the buffaloes are gone.
And the buffaloes are gone.
Sandburg was wrong, but is that what he thought when he wrote the poem in 1920? How many people, in 1920, thought "those who saw the buffaloes" were gone? It wasn't true then, and it wasn't true in 1983 when Jack Prelutsky chose the poem for the collection... Did Prelutsky think so in 1983? And when Lobel was drawing the buffalo herd that accompanies the poem, did he think so?    

Monday, July 18, 2011

AICL reader on McClure's THE WILDER LIFE

Editor's Note: Today's post is by a Teacher Librarian, NW of Chicago. She writes:

I have spent a long time pondering your comments about the Laura Ingalls Wilder books because, as you can guess, I loved the books when I read them as a child. However, something happened that put everything in perspective for me. I recently listened to the audio book, The Wilder Life: my adventures in the lost world of Little House on the Prairie, written by Wendy McClure. It is a memoir recording her year of visiting all the places Laura had lived and how she felt about the experience. As a Little House fan, I was riveted. I thought that throughout the book, McClure did an adequate job of pointing out Wilder's prejudices when writing about the Indians. However, toward the end of her book, McClure wrote of this incident:
p. 318

I bought a sunbonnet at the museum store, my sixth one.

"I had a feeling you would buy one on this trip," Kara said, as we walked back out to the car. "I bought something, too." She went through her bag in the backseat and pulled out a feathered headband, the kind they used to sell in dime stores for playing cowboys and Indians. "Picture time!" she said.

I started laughing. "Oh my God," I said. "Yes!" We put on our mythical headgear and took pictures of ourselves standing together in the parking lot. It seemed a fitting way to end the trip.
In my mind, the incident was a totally "unfitting" way to end the book. This scene ruined my empathetic feelings toward the author and illustrated how Wilder's stereotypes are still alive and well.