Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Year 2014 at American Indians in Children's Literature

I launched American Indians in Children's Literature in 2006. This is the first time I'm doing a recap of any given year. I started it in 2014, thinking I could post it in time for the end of 2014/start of 2015 when everyone is doing year end reflections, but it took far longer than I anticipated. I hope you enjoy it. It isn't comprehensive. I did over 100 posts in 2014. Here are some high and low points that stood out to me.

I always welcome your comments and emails. I make typos--and am always grateful to those of you who write to tell me about them. I fix 'em, thanks to you!


Travers in the Indian jewelry she wore all the time
Saving Mr. Banks came out in theaters. Reading a response to the movie prompted me to write Travers (author of Mary Poppins): "I lived with the Indians..." Do read that post! From the background on Travers to the side-by-side comparisons I did of the first edition and the revised edition without the racist images and text... Well... lots of fascinating info!

Always looking for young adult books set in the present day, and when I find them, hoping they'll be good... Among its many problems, Liz Fichera has Native characters being saved by white ones. Not necessarily a bad thing, but definitely a story line that we see far too often.  Hooked is on my not recommended list. It got a thumbs down, too, from Naomi Bishop, of the American Indian Library Association.

Brian Floca replied to my review of LocomotiveThat post was one of AICL's most-read pages for 2014.

Though Mary Pope Osborne's Magic Tree House series is much-loved, I found many problems with Thanksgiving on ThursdayShe found a new way to misrepresent Squanto in her book (it was published in 2002, but AICL looks at old and new books).

In other media, I learned about murals at post offices. It was interesting to see the differences in murals of Native peoples done by Native artists versus the stereotypical ones done by white artists.

My post about John Green's use of sarcasm regarding Native peoples generated a lot of discussion in the comments to it but also on Facebook. This sarcasm is in The Fault in Our Stars. 

I read--and recommended--The Giant Bear: An Inuit FolktaleIt has a teacher's guide, too! Check it out.

I was thrilled to learn that Eric Gansworth's If I Ever Get Out of Here was chosen as one of YALSA's Best Fiction for Young Adults for 2014.

And, the American Indian Library Association announced the winners of its Youth Literature awards!


I was nervous about being interviewed for a CNN story about young adult literature. As I thought about that interview, I wrote about several books for young adults, noting that librarians and teachers must not let Alexie's young adult novel be "the single story" they read/share about Native peoples.

Tim Tingle's How I Became a Ghost and Eric Gansworth's If I Ever Get Out of Here were selected for discussion at CCBC-Net. The discussion was quite intense! The post includes a link to CCBC-Net. (By the way, CCBC won't be hosting their listserv anymore. I'll miss it.) If you're in a bookstore, these are the covers of their books:

I was pleased to see Laurie Halse Anderson's treatment of Native content in her The Impossible Knife of Memory. 


In my review of Tim Tingle's How I Became a Ghost, I took special delight in his use of "Choctaw Nation" in the chapter heading for his opening chapter.

I had a rather long back-and-forth with Rosanne Parry over problems I found in her Written In Stone. I grew weary of that back-and-forth. It is unfinished. In the summary (above) for January, I noted how white characters save Native ones in Hooked. Parry is a white writer with good intentions, but has blinders to issues in how she went about her story. She asked me for input but then rebutted that input. It is similar to what Lynn Reid Banks did, and what Ann Rinaldi did (invite but reject input from Native scholar).

I did an analysis of books by/about American Indians sent to the Cooperative Center for Children's Books at Wisconsin in 2013. No surprise to see that most books by major publishers were by not-Native writers and that they had a lot of stereotyping and errors, while books by small publishers were by Native writers, and they were definitely far better in quality!

With so much interest in Rush Limbaugh's books for children, I decided I best take a look at the first one. It was just like listening to his show. No surprise there, but important to list its problems, especially since he went on to be named author of the year by the Children's Book Council.

It was a year in which Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington pro football team, preyed on tribes as he looked for Native people to endorse his use of a racist name for his team. My post on March 25 was about the foundation he set up for that preying activity.


For over a hundred years, Native people have spoken against misrepresentations of Native people. These things matter. Our youth struggle in school. They're inundated with misrepresentations in their books and other places, too, like with mascots. I looked at some of the data on graduation rates and linked it to stereotyping.

In February, I wrote about being interviewed by CNN. The story was uploaded in April (if the link to he CNN page doesn't work, send me an email and I'll send you a pdf).

I am thrilled to be part of an article that pointed to the work of excellent writers like Matt de la Pena, Sharon Draper, Walter Dean Myers, Cindy Pon, Malinda Lo, Sherman Alexie, Eric Gansworth, Cynthia Leitich Smith, and Debby Dahl Edwardson, and, a key person in the book publishing world, Cheryl Klein. Do read the article.

I read--and loved--Chukfi Rabbit's Big, Bad Bellyache by Greg Rodgers. He incorporated Choctaw words into the story. As you scroll down to December, you'll see the cover of Greg's book, and a photo of him, too. Sadly, he passed away in December.

April marks the month when the We Need Diverse Books campaign was taking form. It isn't the first time that a group of people took action to decenter the whiteness of literature. This time--with the demographic make-up of the US about to shift from white majority--could mean whiteness does, in fact, get decentered. My first post about the campaign was uploaded on April 28.


In the middle of May I participated in a twitter chat about the We Need Diverse Books campaign. I advocated for books by Native writers and was (as usual) challenged for that advocacy. The outcome was a post about that advocacy that included a photo gallery of Native writers and illustrators who have done books for children or young adults. I later turned that post into a page that is now in my menu bar above (beneath AICL's logo) that I am steadily adding to periodically.

I read a delightful picture book: Hungry Johnny by Cheryl Minnema and Wesley Ballinger! Though it features Ojibwe people, it is a lot like Pueblo gatherings, where elders take center stage.

And, another delightful picture book I read in May is Sweetest Kulu by Celina Kalluk and Alexandria Neonakis.

And yet another delight that month was Arigon Starr's Super Indian comic!

One of the many dreadful books I read in 2014 is Julia Mary Gibson's Copper MagicThe stereotypical mystical Indian theme is front and center in this young adult novel, and, well, it is yet another awful book from a major publisher! It was also disheartening to see stereotypes in the popular Where's Waldo series.


First week of June, I wrote about the We Need Diverse Books campaign. I support what they're doing. The WNDB group did a presentation at Book Expo on May 31. My post was a compilation of tweets and photos coming from BEA.

I did an in-depth analysis of Katherine Kirkpatrick's Between Two Worlds. Like too many books from major publishers, it is replete with errors and stereotypes about Native people. Rubbing noses? Sheesh!  It is a great example of the work ahead of the We Need Diverse Books campaign.

Stereotypes like those Kirkpatrick used are one problem. Another is ambiguity. Paul Goble's much-acclaimed The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses doesn't specify a tribe. There is no one-size-fits-all for Native nations.

In the middle of the month I read two outstanding books. Both are tribally specific, both are the work of Native people. I highly recommend them: Donald F. Montileaux's Tasunka: A Lakota Horse Legend and Arigon Starr's Annumpa Luma--Code Talker.  Also in the middle of the month, Beverly Slapin sent me her review of Joseph Bruchac's Killer of Enemies. It won the Young Adult award from the American Indian Library Association.

Towards the end of the month, I wrote up a review of a "Native American Zodiac" that was circulating widely. One rule of thumb that'll help you know if something is worthwhile is to ask "is this tribally specific." With this zodiac, the easy answer is no. Yet, it is hugely popular, so I hope you'll read the critique and share it with others.


The month kicked of with a wonderful look at Tim Tingle's remarks at the American Library Association's conference. He won the American Indian Library Association's Youth Literature Award for How I Became A Ghost and was there to receive his award.

In the middle of the month, I wrote a bit about E. B. White. Did you notice the Native content in Stuart Little? Take a look.

A librarian wrote to ask me about Gary Paulsen's Mr. Tucket. I hadn't read it before. Her request prompted me to read it. I did a chapter-by-chapter analysis. Though Paulsen was tribally specific, he drew heavily on stereotypes.


Earlier in the year, a person at the Library of Congress asked if I could recommend a Native mystery writer that they could have at the National Book Festival. I asked colleagues in my Native network of scholars and writers, and was pointed to the work of Cherokee writer, Sara Sue Hoklotubbe. At the end of the month, I wrote about her Sadie Walela series.

As I was recovering from a broken ankle, I didn't do much blogging at all, but I did read Hoklotubbe's books. I like them very much! I'm glad she was able to be at the National Book Festival. In the days following her reading, I thoroughly enjoyed the photos and stories she shared about the experience on her Facebook page.


A very high point for the month was reading--and loving--Dreaming in Indian: Contemporary Native American Voices

I was glad to see it getting lot of positive buzz from mainstream journals, too. School Library Journal listed it as Best Book 2014 in the Nonfiction category. It is a terrific example of what we need to see lots of so the publishing industry moves away from what we get from Goble, Paulsen, Kirkpatrick, Gibson, Parry, Limbaugh, Osborne...

Speaking of Goble, I wrote about him, asking Was Paul Goble adopted into the Yakima and Sioux tribes?

I put out a call for books for early readers. A learned that Jack Prelutsky's It's Thanksgiving had been redone in 2007, but that the stereotypical problems in the earlier book (published in 1982) were unchanged.

I read The Education of Little TreeI knew it was deeply problematic, but didn't know just how bad it is. I was surprised at some of its content. Cherokee "mating dances"?! Reading that part, I shook my head. So much wrong with it, and yet, it circulates and sells, and sadly--informs readers and writers, too.

Maybe its power in misinforming people is evident in publication of books like Heather Sappenfield's The View From Who I WasThe author meant well--they always do--but the Native community is quite irate over what she did in her book. I did a careful read of it and shared it with her and her editor. Some changes were made as a result... Instead of "costume" she used "regalia" but those are easy changes and don't get at the foundational problems with the book.

There are problems in Bouwman's The Remarkable and Very True Story of Lucy and Snowcap (Two Lions, 2012) and Bow's Sorrow's Knot (Arthur A. Levine Books, 2013). Lots of writers love the "mystical" Indian. There's a lot of that in Nordgren's Anung's Journey (Light Messages Publishing, 2014),  too.

Looking back, it was a tough month. I also wrestled with Neal Shusterman over his Unwind series. He read my review and responded with a comment. Later in the year I wrote more about his books.


High points first!

Carol Lindstrom's Girls Dance Boys Fiddle is terrific. Published in 2013, it is from a small press in Canada called Pemmican Publications.

From another small publisher, Native Northwest, we got the gorgeous and bilingual counting book, We All Count: A Book of Numbers by Julie Flett.

At the other end of the publishing continuum is Sebastian Robertson's picture book biography about his dad, Robbie Robertson. Way cool.

The low points are two picture books by big publishers that diss Native people. They are As An Oak Tree Grows by Brian Karas (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2014) and Thomas Jefferson: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything by Maira Kalman (Penguin, 2014).

Over in the UK, The Guardian worked with Seven Stories Press on a diversity initiative that includes Amazing Grace and Apache: Girl Warrior. Both stereotype Native people and ought not be on a list of diverse books.

In contrast to those low points is K. V. Flynn's On The MoveFlynn isn't Native but it is obvious he did his homework to write On The Move. His characters are from specific tribes and they're well developed, too.

I ended the month with a look at Virginia Stroud's Doesn't Fall Off His HorsePublished in 1994 by Dial Books, it is excellent and now available in ebook.


November is always a stressful month for two reasons. For several years now, the President of the US has designated it as a month dedicated to Native peoples. Because it is also the month that the US celebrates Thanksgiving, things get awfully skewed to a romantic narrative that misinforms and miseducates children about America and American Indians. It is also a month in which I'm asked to do guest posts and lectures.

In preparation for a television interview that would be televised later in the month on CUNY TV, I wrote up Some Thoughts about Native Americans and Thanksgiving. I pointed to some of my favorite books.

Here's info about the Twitter chat I did for We Need Diverse Books. It was storified by the WNDB team. WNDB team member Miranda Paul interviewed me over at Rate Your Story, which is a site designed to help writers and the WNDB team asked me to do a Tumblr post, which I titled Why I Support WNDB.

Beverly Slapin contributed two items: a great review of Kim Shuck's Rabbit Stories and with Kim, a satirical piece, How to Write a Dystopian Young Adult Novel (or short story) with Native Characters for Fun and Profit.

A perfect reference book for the month is David Treuer's Everything You Wanted to Know about Indians But Were Afraid to Ask. Packed with solid info you can use to enrich your own ability to discern the good from the not-so-good (or just plain awful).

Treuer's book is one that I wish writers who incorporate or feature Native content would read. During a WNDB twitter chat on diversity, Francesca Lia Block's name came up. I tweeted the links to my posts on the problems in her books. To my surprise, she was online, too, and apologized. I was thrilled but then someone else suggested I read her Teen SpiritI did, and its got problems, too. It seemed to me that her apology was kind of shallow, then. Maybe if she'd said, in her apology, that Teen Spirit had the same kinds of problems, the apology would be more meaningful. Maybe writers just do not criticize their own books. Ever. I'm trying to think of an example. If you have one, let me know!

A high point of the month was taping a segment for CUNY's Independent SourcesIt aired around Thanksgiving. I love the images they prepared for it--using books I recommend--and the video itself is pretty good, too.

Two other high points: reading Cynthia Leitich Smith's Feral Curse and Roy Boney's We Speak In SecretI highly recommend both.

And--big sigh--there was a lot of activity related to Peter Pan. It was on television as a life performance. I have two posts about it. "True Blood Brothers" includes a link to the earlier one.


Outside of trade books, there are those in basal series. I rarely see them, but should figure out how to do more about them. Starting in November, Native parents in Alaska started writing to me about four books in the McGraw Hill "Reading Wonders" series. Goodness! Some dreadful items there. The outcome of meetings with parents was that the superintendent decided to withdraw the four books.

Back in trade books, I read and do not recommend Nick Lake's There Will Be Lies or Neal Shusterman's Unwholly or Unsouled.  These are from major publishing houses with a lot of heft. A lot of problematic content, in other words, getting pushed out and added to the too-high-pile of misinformation about Native peoples.

On the plus side, I finished the month with reviews of Tim Tingle's House of Purple Cedar and Erika Wurth's Crazy Horse's Girlfriend

I highly recommend both of those books for young adults. And--a rare event on AICL--I recommended a nonfiction book for children. I need to do more on nonfiction! A Children's Guide to Arctic Birds is terrific.

Just before Christmas, the Native community across the country was shocked and saddened to learn that Choctaw writer, Greg Rodgers, had passed away.  His first picture book came out in 2014. A delightful story, we were looking forward to his career as a writer.

I looked over everything I'd read over the year and put together AICL's Best Books of 2014 list. It has 17 books on it. Most--but not all--are by Native writers.

As I post this recap of 2014, we're well into 2015. I'm grateful to those of you who read and share AICL's posts and glad for every comment I get. Keep sending me email! Your emails direct a lot of what I do here.

And remember! All the work I do is with young people in mind. I respect writers and the work they do, but the people closest to my heart are those who read your work. When it has problems, I'll note it because those finely crafted words writers give to children can inspire them, but they can also hurt them. And when those words are well done, I'll celebrate what you do. I'll share it with moms and their kids. Like my niece and her daughter. This is who we're all here for.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Paul Goble's CROW CHIEF

This is a how-Debbie-analyzes-a-book post.

Earlier today, a librarian wrote to ask me about Paul Goble's Crow Chief. It was published in 1992 by Orchard Books. Here's the synopsis, from Amazon:
Crow Chief always warns the buffalo that hunters are coming, until Falling Star, a savior, comes to camp, tricks Crow Chief, and teaches him that all must share and live like relatives together.

I don't have the book itself in front of me but am able to look at the first pages via Amazon's 'look inside' option. The full title of the book is Crow Chief: A Plains Indian story. 

Goble opens the story by saying that a long time ago, all the crows were white. Then he says:
In those long-ago days, the Crow Nation once had a great leader. They called him Crow Chief.
With that sentence, Goble moves from the broad "Plains Indian" to the specific: "Crow Nation." When I turn back to his page of references, then, I expect to see a source specific to the Crow Nation, but there isn't one. Here's the list of books he references, and what I've been able to find in them.

Maurice Boyd, Kiowa Voices
The full title of Maurice Boyd's Kiowa Voices is Kiowa Voices: Ceremonial Dance, Ritual, and Song. I can't read it online, but the descriptions of it say Kiowa. My guess is that it does not have a Crow Nation story in it. It might have a Kiowa story about a white crow.

George A. Dorsey and Alfred L. Kroeber's Traditions of the Arapaho
On page 276 of Traditions of the Arapaho, there is a story called The White Crow. This crow keeps all the buffalo for himself, hidden in a hollow mountain. The people plot to catch him. When they do, they tie him to their tent and he turns black. Later they let him go and follow him. They let the buffalo go. It is an Arapaho story, not a Crow one.

Richard Erdoes, The Sound of Flutes
I am unable to see this book anywhere online. It exists, but Amazon, Google Books, Hathi Trust, and Internet Archive don't have any portions of it that are viewable online. I do have a copy of American Indian Myths and Legends edited by Richard Erdoes and Alfonso Ortiz. In it is "How the Crow Came to be Black." It is on page 395 and is noted as a Brule Sioux story. In it the crow is thrown into a fire and his feathers are charred.

George Bird Grinnell's By Cheyenne Campfires
Grinnell's By Cheyenne Campfires has a story in it called Falling Star about a white crow, but it is a Cheyenne story, not Crow. It starts on page 182. On page 187, an old woman tells Falling Star she has nothing to feed him because a white crow has been driving the buffalo away. Falling Star catches it, takes it to the chief, who decides to put it in the smoke hole of his lodge to smoke the crow to death. It gets away, is caught again, and killed.

James LaPointe, Legends of the Lakota
LaPoint's Legends of the Lakota has a story about a white crow. I'm able to see snippets of the story that appear on page 74 and 75. There, I see that the crow used to be white, and that there were no buffalo. It is set in a Lakota encampment, so I suspect it is presented as a Lakota story rather than a Crow one. I ordered a copy of this book because it was published by the Indian Historian Press. That press is significant in Native studies.

John G. Neihardt, Eagle Voice
Neihardt's Eagle Voice - I couldn't find that title, but did find When the Tree Flowered: The Fictional Biography of Eagle Voice by Neidhardt. It was published in 1951. It has a story called The Labors of the Holy One. In it, Falling Star is a main character. There is a white crow that scares the buffalo when the hunters are coming. It is tricked by Falling Star and ends up being black. But, the story is a work of fiction by Neidhardt, who was not Native.

Vivian One Feather, Ehanni Okunkakan
I am unable to find Vivian One Feather's Ehanni Okunkakan, but information about it indicates the items she wrote are Lakota, for use at Red Cloud Indian School.

Ronald Theise, Buckskin Tokens
The full title of Theise's Buckskin Tokens is Buckskin Tokens: Contemporary Oral Narratives of the Lakota. I am unable to see it but given its title, my guess is that the stories in it are Lakota, not Crow.

Clark Wissler and D. C. Duvall, Mythology of the Blackfoot Indians
Wissler and Duvall's Mythology of the Blackfoot Indians has an introduction that says the stories in it are Blackfoot. On page 40 is a very long story called The Twin Brothers, or Stars. On page 50 is where I come to a part of the story about crows driving buffalo away. Crows used to be white. On page 51, Crow is tied in a smoke hole and becomes black.

So where does that leave me at this point?

Looking through the references Goble used for this book, I am not able to find one that is about the Crow Nation and their stories. Do you know Betsy Hearne's article, Cite the Source? It is about traditional stories. In it, she talks about the importance of citing the source. Goble has cited a lot in Crow Chief but I'm thinking that what he's shared isn't really helpful for anyone who is trying to determine the accuracy of the story he tells. Some might argue that it is not fair to judge Goble's book from this point in time (2015) because it came out in 1992. Hearne's article came out in 1993. He, therefore, didn't have her article for guidance.

It is possible that Goble meant nation of crows-the-birds rather than the Crow Nation of people. If he did, then the story might be ok but I think viewing it that way injects too much confusion, and we still have too much ambiguity.

The Crow Nation is amongst the many Plains Nations, but that doesn't mean they are the same from one to the other. It is interesting to find that the Kiowa, Cheyenne, Lakota, and Blackfoot have stories about a white crow, but they aren't the same. There are variations. Some elements are similar but others are not. I wonder if the Crow Nation has a white crow story? I'll keep looking...

Update, 6:02 PM, Feb 3 2015:

An important bit of information that I must share. In the late 1800s, the Bureau of American Ethnography sent people to gather stories from the tribes out of a concern that we were dying off and our stories would be lost forever. The stories were published and seen as legitimate source material. Sometimes they are and sometimes they are not. Frank Hamilton Cushing, for example, collected stories at Zuni. His are not reliable. Some of the collectors were not aware of their own biases as outsiders. That bias and outsider perspective is in those stories.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Do something dramatic! AICL's recap of ALA's Day of Diversity

Note: AICL is compiling links to reflections of the day. See the list at the bottom of this post.

Last week (Friday, January 30, 2015), I was at the Day of Diversity at the American Library Association's 2015 Midwinter Conference. This is my recap of the highlights (for me) of the day. I am glad I was invited. It provided me the opportunity to meet some terrific people I've known via social media for several years. A more personal reflection of the ALA's 2015 Midwinter Conference is forthcoming.

The keynote was delivered by former ALA President, Dr. Camila Alire. 

She spoke about being in college (grad school, maybe), working on a project in which she did content analyses of depictions of Mexican Americans in children's books. She came across Bad Boy, Good Boy by Marie Hall Ets. It was published in 1967 by Cromwell. Here's the cover:

In her talk, Alire listed some of the problems she saw in it: the father/husband is the stereotypical depiction of violent Mexican American men with machismo, and the mother learned the right way to cook only after she went to work as a housekeeper for a white family. Roberto doesn't speak English and gets in trouble. The heroes of the story are a white policeman and a white teacher. Learning English is important in Roberto becoming the good boy of the book's title. Alire analyzed Bad Boy, Good Boy using the Council on Interracial Books for Children's Ten Quick Ways to Analyze Children's Books for Racism and Bias. It failed on many points. 

Alire said that it is hard to find Bad Boy, Good Boy today. She said that it is important that we look for good books that accurately reflect the people being depicted, but that it is also important to talk about problematic books, too. She didn't name any present-day examples, but my colleagues have done similar analyses of Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner. It fails, too. 

Alire shared data from 2002 and 2013 compiled by the Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC) at the University of Wisconsin that shows there has been a decrease in the number of books by/about African/African Americans, American Indians, Asian Pacific/Asian Pacific Americans, and Latinos:

See the drop from 2002 to 2013 in the American Indian column? In 2002 there were 64. In 2013, the number was 34. Last year I looked at the 34 on the 2013 list. Focusing on those published in the United States, there were 14 books. Five of them had stereotypes and/or bias such that I cannot recommend them. My point is this: we can't look only at numbers. We have to open the books and look at the content, too. At AICL, I talk about the bad in terms of that content. Far too many people do not recognize problematic content. We have to do what Alire asked us to do: talk about the bad, too.

Alire pointed to resources people can use in their efforts to improve their skills in collection development. Among them is The Importance of Diversity in Library Programs and Material Collections for Children, edited by Jamie Naidoo. Written for the Association for Library Service to Children, it includes a link to American Indians in Children's Literature. In the Background section, Naidoo points to librarian Charlemae Rollins. In 1941, she wrote about stereotyping of African Americans in children's books. Back in the 1927, Native parents in Chicago wrote letters, objecting to the ways Native peoples were portrayed in textbooks. And all the way back in 1829, William Apes, a Pequot man raised by whites, wrote about being afraid of his own people. In A Son of the Forest, he wrote this:

[T]he great fear I entertained of my brethren was occasioned by the many stories I had heard of their cruelty toward the whites—how they were in the habit of killing and scalping men, women, and children. But the whites did not tell me that they were in a great majority of instances the aggressors—that they had imbrued their hands in the lifeblood of my brethren, driven them from their once peaceful and happy homes—that they introduced among them the fatal and exterminating diseases of civilized life. If the whites had told me how cruel they had been to the “poor Indian,” I should have apprehended as much harm from them.

These historical moments are important. After Alire's keynote, the first panel began their presentations. Leading them off was Violet Harris. The struggle, Harris noted, is not new. What is different is social media and its potential for effecting change. She pointed to the We Need Diverse Books campaign and to the articles Walter Dean Myers did for the New York Times. His Where Are the People of Color in Children's Books came out in March 15, 2014, but it was preceded by his "I Actually Thought We Would Revolutionize the Industry" which came out in 1986. 

In his 2014 article, Myers cited the CCBC statistics that Alire used in her chart above. In her remarks, Kathleen Horning of the Cooperative Children's Book Center told us that their phone has been ringing non-stop. Journalists and researchers who read the Myers article want more information. The data from CCBC tells us that, contrary to what a lot of people think, we are not in a post-racial society. She quoted her US Madison colleague, Bernice Durand, Associate Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Climate, who said you need at least three people of color in any group to affect change. When she was in a position to make appointments to award committees, she followed Durand's advice.*

Jason Low spoke about some of the work that Lee and Low has been doing, in particular, pointing to the lack of diversity in movies and children's books. Here's a much-shared graphic they put together using CCBC data:

The panel was followed by a breakout session that I found disappointing. Much later, I realized that the breakouts were geared more towards the people in the audience who are new to all of this--those who are just starting out and want to make change in what they do in their libraries. 

Lunchtime was a powerful hour as Sara Farizan, Ellen Oh, and Cynthia Leitich Smith did a "Lightning Talk" about their work as writers, and Namrata Tripathi spoke about her work as an editor. What made the four talks so riveting was that the four women shared personal stories from their own lives that shape the work they do. 

Books are not mere entertainment. They inspire us, but they can hurt us, too, and we must speak about up more about problematic books. Pointing to problems can lead to change. 

I'm running out of steam right now, but don't want to close this off without saying a few things about Satia Orange's closing. A former director of ALA's Office for Literacy and Outreach Services, she moderated the last panel. I'm paraphrasing and wish I had a recording so that I don't misrepresent what she said. 

This is a dangerous time for black and brown children, she said. More than anyone, she called out the power structures that aren't with us in this struggle.* More of us have to step up. We have to challenge publishers and do more, like selling books in non-traditional places. She challenged the gathering to do something dramatic next week, and next month, for children of color. 

The Day of Diversity began with a request that we call people in rather than calling them out. I understand that it is important to assume the best of people, but being nice, in its way, lets the status quo continue unchallenged. 

Challenging the status quo is uncomfortable for me, and it is uncomfortable to those who I challenge. Most recently, David Arnold (author of Mosquitoland) blocked me from being able to see what he tweets because I pointed to his use of "warpaint" for his "part Cherokee" character. That book is getting starred reviews. Obviously people love it and see nothing wrong with its use of "warpaint." That sort of thing affirms misinformation about Cherokee people, and it is an affront to Cherokee children and their families who are weary of being misrepresented again and again and again. 

During the day, I spoke with Kathleen Horning about the work of the Council on Interracial Books for Children. She said she thinks they made a difference because they called people out. I think that is what Satia Orange is asking us to do, too. Speak up. Be dramatic. The lives of children of color matter. 


For more, see these personal and professional reflections. I'm adding others as I see them. Please let me know of ones you see, too. 

*Edited to reflect clarifications provided to me by KT Horning in comments (below) and others who were there.  

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Thumbs down to THE MAYFLOWER by Mark Greenwood

In July of 2014, Holiday House released The Mayflower written by Mark Greenwood. Illustrated by his wife, Frane Lessac, some people think it is a contender for the Caldecott. I sure hope not, but America loves its birth narratives and many segments of America refuse to see it in a balanced or accurate light.

Greenwood and Lessac provide that same romantic story, as shown on these pages (source: Here's Squanto:

And of course, that meal:

For further reading:

BOOKLIST lists American Indians in Children's Literature as a Resource

Booklist's February 2015 issue is titled "Spotlight on Multicultural Literature." The feature article is online. Written by Sarah Hunter, the article opens with:
It’s no secret that children’s publishing has a problem. Numerous venues, from the New York Times to Twitter, have rightfully brought to light the significant disparity in the representation of diversity in kids’ books. So what can librarians do, both immediately and in the long term, to make things better?
She closes with a quote from two librarians at Chicago Public Library:
McChesney and Medlar similarly note, “These conversations may ‘feel’ uncomfortable to a librarian, but they are important to our kids and [they] help them gain power as both consumers and critics.” If librarians allow themselves the room to make mistakes, and openly and humbly accept feedback, they should be able to help create change, even it if is incremental rather than overnight.
And, she links to American Indians in Children's Literature and the American Indian Library Association's Youth Literature Award as resources:

Click on over and read Hunter's article. If you can't get to it, let me know and I'll send you a pdf of the article. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

HOUSE OF PURPLE CEDAR selected by International Reading Association

Tim Tingle's exquisite House of Purple Cedar is among the books the Children's Literature/Reading group of the International Reading Association selected for inclusion in its list of Notable Books for a Global Society. (Note: I did two screen captures from their pdf to make the image above.)

Here's a bit of info about the Notable Books list, from their website:
The Notable Books for a Global Society (NBGS) list was developed to help students, teachers, and families identify books that promote understanding of and appreciation for the world's full range of diverse cultures and ethnic and racial groups. Although advances in technology allow us to communicate quickly with people around the world and the growth of world trade brings us increasingly into contact with far-flung members of the "global village," today's society is rife with tension, conflict and ignorance of others different from us. If we hope to meet the many challenges that face us in the 21st century, we must recognize the similarities and celebrate the differences among all races, cultures, religions, and sexual orientations, and appreciate that people can hold a wide range of equally legitimate values.
I'm thrilled to see House of Purple Cedar receive this recognition. It is on American Indians in Children's Literature's list of Best Books of 2014, too, and I hope you'll add it to your shelves. Book talk it if you're a librarian. Assign it if you're a teacher. And if you're a bookseller, hand sell it to people who come in to your store.

Tingle was at the National Book Festival last year. Though the audio isn't great in this video, you won't regret taking time to listen to what Tingle has to say. He starts out with a great bit of humor. Do watch at least the first few minutes.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

FERAL PRIDE by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Feral Pride is the third book in Cynthia Leitich Smith's Feral series. She is Muscogee Creek. Books in the series consists of a series of chapters, each one told from the point of view of one of the characters.

Prior to this and her Tantalize series, Leitich Smith wrote three books I highly recommend: her picture book Jingle Dancer, the early reader chapter book Indian Shoes, and her young adult novel Rain is Not My Indian Name. Each one is a terrific story featuring Native kids and their families. All three are set in the present day.

Feral Curse, the second book in the Feral series, introduces a Native character. Her name is Jess. She is Osage. Kayla, one of the main characters in Feral Curse, is a shapeshifter. Kayla and Jess grew up together and are good friends. In her early teens when Kayla realized she is a shapeshifter, she started to keep to herself, afraid of what people and friends will think about her, and afraid that she might inadvertently hurt or frighten them.

Some people in the world Leitich Smith creates are fine with shapeshifters; others aren't. It is that facet of the story that stands out to me as a Native women. The world Leitich Smith creates--and the attitudes of people in it--reflect the real world. Here on AICL, I've written about U.S. assimilation policies. Some of those laws and policies took land from Native peoples as a means to destroy our nationhood, and others sought to "kill the Indian and save the man." Those laws and policies were driven by attitudes held by people who did not want 'other' in the U.S.

That history is in my head as I read Feral Pride, or any book. It doesn't matter what I read. I see gaps. And misrepresentations. But as I read Feral Pride, I see Leitich Smith filling those gaps, meeting them head on.

Here's an example from early in Feral Pride. It picks up where Feral Curse left off. Feral Pride opens with Clyde. Like Kayla, he is a shapeshifter. Clyde, Yoshi, and Kayla are on the run. Both Clyde and Yoshi have more experience with being hunted than Kayla does. Jess is driving them in her dad's squad car. He's a sheriff in the small town in Texas where Kayla and Jess are from. They're headed to the Osage reservation. Here's their conversation (p. 3):*
"None of this makes sense," Kayla says from the backseat of the squad car. "It's not illegal to be what we are. Why would federal agents be gunning for us?"
"Why wouldn't they?" answers Yoshi, who's beside her.

Clyde thinks:
They're both right. It's not illegal to be what we are. But whenever anything goes wrong, anything bloody and brutal, shape-shifters are presumed guilty.
As I read "It's not illegal to be what we are" I thought about all the young people in the US today who some segments of society think of as "illegal." I thought about them being hunted, living in fear of being deported. I thought about how they are unfairly blamed for one social ill after another. Those who aren't branded "illegal" may not notice the work this particular part of Feral Pride is doing, but you can be sure that those who are considered "illegal" will note that passage. It speaks to them, as does Jess, on page 9, when she says:
"Shifters are people. There are terrific people. There are terrible people. Most fall in between."
I keep reading Jess's words. The list of peoples in the world that have been dehumanized and demonized by terrible people is astounding. Feral Pride pushes us--if we're willing--to think about that and why it happens.

Weighty topic, I know, but Leitich Smith lightens that weight with the banter the teens engage in as they drive. They're into superheroes and science fiction characters.

And! The parts of the story where characters shift or are talking about clothes? Well, I find those parts exquisite and they make me wish I could see all of this on a movie screen. And the parts where characters from the Tantalize series join the characters in the Pride series? Well done!

There are other tensions throughout the novel that provide opportunities to think about, for example, relationships across race. Characters who experience these tensions reflect on the ways that their own flaws and experiences shape what they say, do, and think. Their reflections and conversations give them space to revisit what they think, say, and do--and of course, provide those opportunities to us, too.

Elsewhere, reviewers note some of what I did above, and they call Feral Pride compelling, action-packed, sexy, campy, and wickedly funny. I agree with all that, and am happy to recommend it.

Feral Pride is due out this year (2015) from Candlewick.

*I read an advanced reader copy of Feral Pride. Page numbers I noted above may not correspond to the book when it is published.

Monday, January 26, 2015

"Injun" in Chris Kyle's AMERICAN SNIPER

When American Sniper opened in theaters last week, I started to see reviews that pointed out Kyle's use of the word savage to describe Iraqis. That word has been used to describe American Indians. I wondered if Kyle made any connections between "savage" and American Indians in his book. The answer? Yes.

In his autobiography, Kyle uses "Injun" in two places. Here's what he said on page 267:
Or we would bump out 500 yards, six or eight hundred yards, going deep into Injun territory to look and wait for the bad guys.
And here's what he said on page 291:
Our missions would last for an overnight or two in Injun country.
See? He made connections between "savage" Iraqis and "savage" Indians. In his book, he used the word "savage" several times. Here's page 4 (the book uses caps as shown):
SAVAGE, DESPICABLE EVIL. THAT'S WHAT WE WERE FIGHTING in Iraq. That's why a lot of people, myself included, called the enemy "savages." 
Later on that same page, he says that when people asked him how many he's killed:
The number is not important to me. I only wish I had killed more. Not for bragging rights, but because I believe the world is a better place without savages out there taking American lives.
On page 147:
On page 173:
It was near a hospital the insurgents had converted into a headquarters before our assault, and even now the area seemed to be a magnet for savages.
On page 219:
I hated the damn savages I'd been fighting.
On page 228:
They turned around and saw a savage with a rocket launcher lying dead on the ground.
On page 244:
They had heard we were out there slaying a huge number of savages.
On page 284:
There was a savage on the roof of the house next door, looking down at the window from the roof there. 
On page 316:
"...after we killed enough of the savages out there," I told him. 
On page 338:
I'd have to wait until the savage who put him up to it appeared on the street.
Of course, Kyle is not the first person to equate American Indians with Iraqis. In 2008, Professor Steven Silliman of the University of Massachusetts did a study of the use of "Indian Country." His article, The "Old West" in the Middle East: U.S. Military Metaphors in Real and Imagined Indian Country includes a chart of how it was used in the Middle East, by media and soldiers.

And, anyone who has paid attention to the use of "savage" or "Injun" in children's literature will be able to list several books that use either word to dehumanize American Indians. Here's a few examples:

  • Laura Ingalls Wilder used "savages" in her Little House on the Prairie.  
  • Carol Ryrie Brink used "savages" in Caddie Woodlawn.
  • Lois Lenski used "savage" in Indian Captive.
  • Elizabeth George Speare used "savages" in Calico Captive and "savage" in Sign of the Beaver.
  • Eoin Colfer used "savage Injun" in The Reluctant Assassin.

When we share books with the dehumanization of American Indians, do we inadvertently put people on that road to being able to dehumanize "other" in conflicts, be the conflict that takes place in war or on the streets of any country?

Update, 5:03 PM, January 26, 2015

In addition to the article I linked to above, please see the conclusion of Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz's Indigenous Peoples History of the United States. Irony abounds within military activity. At one point in time, US soldiers dehumanized Native peoples so they could destroy us, our homelands, and our ways of life. Kyle's framing of Iraqis as savages is a present-day manifestation of that.

Dunbar-Ortiz documents the flip side of that stance, quoting Robert D. Kaplan, a military analyst who Foreign Policy magazine named as one of the top 100 global thinkers in 2011:
"It is a small but interesting fact that members of the 101st Airborne Division, in preparation for their parachute drop on D-Day, shaved themselves in Mohawk style and applied war paint on their faces."
She cites other instances of that sort of thing. Get her book, if you can from Teaching for Change


A few days ago, I wrote about the ways that Amazon is using a snippet of School Library Journal's review of David Arnold's Mosquitoland, due out this year

In contrast, Barnes and Noble uses the entire review. The reviewer, Angie Manfredi, pointed to Arnold's use of lipstick as "warpaint" and noted that the protagonist is "part Cherokee."

Today (January 26, 2015), David Arnold tweeted the photograph to the right as part of a hashtag started by Gayle Forman. I take it to be his way of showing us his protagonist in her "warpaint."

Mr. Arnold? Did you imagine a Native reader of your book? Did it occur to you that this "warpaint" would be problematic?  I see that this is the person in the book trailer. In it, she is shown putting on this "warpaint." How did the particular "warpaint" design come about?!

The book trailer ends with "Mim Malone is not ok." What you have her doing is not ok either.

Update, 2:04 PM, January 26, 2015
A couple of people have written to tell me that the cover of the book shows the girl with the "warpaint." Here is a screen capture of the girl on the cover. Though the image is pixelated, you can see the "warpaint."

Someone else asked if I could elaborate on why this "warpaint" is problematic. The protagonist is, according to the review, part Cherokee. As a part Cherokee person, she applies "warpaint" to her face when she needs it to overcome something. It plays into stereotypical ideas of Indians "on the warpath." Frankly, I don't know any Native person--Cherokee or otherwise--who would use lipstick in this way, in this pattern, in this day and time, to overcome adversity. 

It suggests to me, that the protagonist is clueless about her Native identity. Is that part of the storyline? That she is ignorant about her Cherokee heritage? Does she, along the way, learn that what she is doing is goofy? Inappropriate? Stereotypical? 

Update, Tuesday Jan 27, 8:18 AM

Reaction to the "warpaint" from Cherokee librarians, writers, and parents:
  • "Sigh. Just once I wish they would pick on someone else."  
  • "Part Cherokee? Which part?" 
  • "Slowly bangs head against desktop."

People who really are Cherokee are weary of their nation being used over and over and over and over and over, and misrepresented over and over and over and over... 

Update, Sunday April, 2015

AICL's full review of Mosquitoland includes Mr. Arnold's response.

AICL's Open Letter to Mr. Arnold includes another response from Mr. Arnold. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Comparing Reviews of MOSQUITOLAND at Amazon and Barnes & Noble

A lot of people use the reviews at Amazon to make decisions about books. I don't know how the specific content that is used at Amazon is selected, but it is worth noting that it is selectively used. No surprise there, really, because Amazon is a business, and so are the publishers.

Case in point: David Arnold's Mosquitoland 

Amazon includes this from School Library Journal:

Three sentences. They say "Debut author Arnold's book is filled with some incredible moments of insight. The protagonist is a hard-edged narrator with a distinct voice. There is a lot for teens to admire and even savor." 

The full review was much longer, as seen at Barnes and Noble:

In the full review, Angie Manfredi pointed out that the protagonist uses lipstick to paint her face and calls it "war paint" or that the protagonist is "part" Cherokee. She described these as "deeply problematic elements" of "cultural appropriation." 

She's right. 

I haven't read the book yet but will as soon as I get a copy. 

For now, though, I think it important to note the difference in what gets excerpted at Amazon versus what gets used at Barnes and Noble. If you are a person who is mindful of problems related to depictions of Native peoples, Amazon would lead you astray. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Martin Luther King, Jr. on Genocide of American Indians

Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Why We Can't Wait includes "The Summer of Our Discontent" in which he wrote about moderates who, opposed to segregation, were friends of the Civil Rights Movement. But, King wrote, these moderates were less enthused about the breadth of the movement's call for equality to jobs, housing, education, and social mobility, which he called a Revolution.

Rather than condemn them, he sought to understand their reluctance. He wrote:*
They [the moderates] are evidence that the Revolution is now ripping into roots. For too long the depth of racism in American life as been underestimated. The surgery to extract it is necessarily complex and detailed. As a beginning it is important to X-ray our history and reveal the full extent of the disease. The strands of prejudice towards Negroes are tightly wound around the American character. The prejudice has been nourished by the doctrine of race inferiority. Yet to focus upon the Negro alone as the "inferior race" of American myth is to miss the broader dimensions of the evil.

Here's the next paragraph. King uses the word "genocide."  There is a lot to say about the ideas in this paragraph, but my point in sharing it is the last line, which I am emphasizing with bold italics:

Our nation was born in genocide when it embraced the doctrine that the original American, the Indian, was an inferior race. Even before there were large numbers of Negroes on our shores, the scar of racial hatred had already disfigured colonial society. From the sixteenth century forward, blood flowed in battles over racial supremacy. We are perhaps the only nation which tried as a matter of national policy to wipe out its indigenous population. Moreover, we elevated that tragic experience into a noble crusade. Indeed, even today we have not permitted ourselves to reject or to feel remorse for this shameful episode. Our literature, our films, our drama, our folklore all exalt it.

I'm sharing King's words today--the day after the US celebrates Martin Luther King Day--because I would like people to think about what he said in those two paragraphs. I want you to think about it each day as you work with children or teens and the books you use with them.

How many of the books on your shelf exalt the experiences of Native peoples in ways that incorrectly cast us as inferior people? Is it hard for you to look critically at those books because they require you to examine a previously unexamined allegiance to a view of American character that has not looked critically at what King called its evil dimensions?

*I am reading Why We Can't Wait as an ebook and cannot provide page numbers for the excerpts above. Why We Can't Wait was first published by Beacon Press in 1963.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


Due out this year (2015) is a new edition of Dorling Kindersley's Merriam-Webster Children's Dictionary. I reviewed a copy, available via Edelweiss, focusing on its Native content. Here's some of my notes/thoughts.

It includes (if I counted right) 27 specific "group[s] of American Indian people" --- but nowhere did the editors use the word 'nation' or 'sovereign' or 'government' to describe these "group[s} of American Indian people."

Let's look at the entry for Apache:
1 a member of an American Indian people of the southwestern United States
2 any of the languages of the Apache people
The editors are focusing on individuals and languages, both of which are important, but, our status as self-governing sovereign nations is the single most important fact about who we are.

As some of you know, there are several Apache nations. If you go to the National Congress of American Indians directory, you can enter Apache into the "Search by Keyword" box and you'll get nine different ones. If I was writing the entry for Apache, I'd do this:
1 a citizen or member of a sovereign Native nation currently located in the southwestern United States
2 any of the languages of the people of the Apache nations

See my use of 'sovereign' and 'nation'? Those words matter! For your reference, here are the entries:

  • Apache
  • Arapahoe
  • Cherokee 
  • Cheyenne
  • Choctaw
  • Comanche
  • Creek
  • Crow
  • Dakota
  • Delaware
  • Fox
  • Hopi
  • Mahigan or Mohican
  • Mohawk
  • Mohegan 
  • Navajo
  • Nez Perce
  • Ojibwa or Ojibway or Ojibwe
  • Oneida
  • Osage
  • Paiute
  • Pueblo
  • Seminole
  • Seneca
  • Shoshone
  • Tlingit
  • Wampanaog

Like some of you, I'm wondering how, out of the hundreds of options, they chose those particular nations.

I wondered if the dictionary has an entry for Eskimo, so did a search and found the word in a photo inset for the word costume, where a child is shown with this caption "Eskimo costume worn in Canada" (there are six children shown; more about that later). The "costume" includes a parka. A parka isn't a costume. It is an article of clothing. The definition of costume is (p. 201):
1 special or fancy dress (as for wear on the stage or at a masquerade) 2 a style of clothing, ornaments, and hair used during a certain period, in a certain region, or by a certain class or group <ancient Roman costume> <peasant costume>.  
Information provided in that photo inset is this:
Many countries and regions have one or more traditional national costumes. These often reflect the lifestyles that people led in the past, both in terms of climate and in the type of work undertaken by many inhabitants of the country.
The six "costumes" shown are described as follows (bullets are mine):

  • "the sari is worn in India" - lines point to "short top" and "sari" 
  • "a costume worn in Finland" - line point to "boots made from reindeer fur"
  • "a costume worn in Vietnam" - lines point to "scarf" and "piece of cloth wound around the legs"
  • "a costume worn in Korea" - lines point to "silk jacket" and "sports shoes are not traditional"
  • "a costume worn in Tanzania" - lines point to "bead necklace" and "bead belt" and "colorful cloth tied around the body"
  • "Eskimo costume worn in Canada" - lines point to "modern parka" and "insulated boots"

I don't think someone in India would call a sari a costume. Do you? Same with the boots worn in Finland, the items worn in Vietnam, etc. If, however, a kid who isn't of those places or people wears one of those items, then I think it would be accurate to say it is a costume.

The other place the dictionary has the word Eskimo is in its front matter, where you learn how to use the dictionary itself. Here's a screen capture (see update at the bottom of this page regarding Eskimo/Inuit):

Thinking about that usage label, I wondered if the word "squaw" is included. It isn't (it isn't in the 2000 version either; see update at end of review). I looked at other words commonly used for Native people. Of course, each nation has its own language and its own word for man, woman, child, baby, etc.

The third entry for brave is "an American Indian warrior" (p. 121). Though I've seen "brave" used as a standard word for man (or braves for men), I think they're trying to say that it is a person who fights. Like a soldier. I wonder who first used brave to describe Native fighters? Cooper?!

The entry for medicine man is "a person especially among American Indian groups believed to have magic powers to cure illnesses and keep away evil spirits." Contrast that to the definition of priest and you see some bias: "a person who has the authority to perform religious ceremonies."

Sachem is "a North American chief" (p. 700) but it is like the word papoose--it has become the default word for chief. In fact, the word is Narragansett and the Narragansett's use it today. I don't know anyone from another tribe who calls their leader a sachem.

Interestingly, the entries for chief don't include reference to Native leaders.

Entries for hogan, tepee (better spelling is tipi), powwow,  and totem pole, are ok.

The entry for tom-tom is "a drum (as a traditional Asian, African, or American Indian drum) that is beaten with the hands" (p. 834). It should not include American Indian because we use drumsticks, not hands, to beat our drums, and we do not call them tom-toms.

The entry for reservation could be better. It is not wrong to say it is "land set aside for American Indians to live" but it raises questions like, who set it aside, why, and when.

The entry for wampum as "beads made of shells and once used for money or ornament by North American Indians" (p. 891) is mostly incorrect and imprecise. Beside it is a photograph of a wampum belt. It is intended to be evidence of wampum as an ornament to be worn. Wampum is made of shell. That is the part of the definition that is correct, but wampum is far more than decoration, and it belongs to specific nations. Here's the first paragraph about wampum, from the Onondaga Nation's website:
Wampum is created from the shell of a clam. The bead is cut from the white and purple parts of the shell. The shell is thought of as a living record. The speaker puts the words of the agreement into the wampum. Each speaker thereafter uses the wampum to remember the initial agreement and the history that has happened to date.
Go read the rest of the page and you'll understand why the definition is wrong.

The definition for wigwam suggests that they are no longer in use, which is inaccurate and it doesn't specify what nations use them.

In conclusion, this was an interesting exercise (and tiring), going through this dictionary. I hope the editors make changes next time around to make it more accurate and less biased.


Update: Thank you, Sarah, for noting that the definition for Eskimo in the screen capture is incorrect. There is no entry for Eskimo in the dictionary. (Note: there is an entry for Eskimo that I missed in my searching. If you use the search option in your e-copy, note that it is inconsistent. The entry for Eskimo does not show up when you search using the word itself. It will come up when you search using Inuit.)

Sarah also provided me with a useful page: Inuit or Eskimo: Which Name to Use? The entry for Inuit is:
1 a member of the Eskimo people of the arctic regions of North America
2 any of the languages of the Inuit people.


Update (first update above was within minutes of the review being uploaded. Here's another update, within an hour of the review being uploaded): Thank you, Michelle, for looking at the 2000 edition of this dictionary. It does not have the word squaw in it. Does someone have an older version?

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Time Magazine's Almost All White 100 Best Children's Books of All Time

This morning, I posted a quick analysis of Time magazine's 100 Best Young Adult Books of All Time. This is my quick analysis of the children's books they chose. Here's what Time says about how they compiled the list:

To honor the best books for young adults and children, TIME compiled this survey in consultation with respected peers such as U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate Ken Nesbitt, children’s-book historian Leonard Marcus, the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature, the Young Readers Center at the Library of Congress, the Every Child a Reader literacy foundation and 10 independent booksellers. 

There are no Native authors on the list. There are eight authors of color:

  • Mitsumasa Anno
  • Sharon Draper
  • Taro Gomi
  • Walter Dean Myers
  • Kadir Nelson
  • Allen Say
  • Divya Srinivasan
  • Ed Young

With only eight authors of color on the list, I'll echo what I said earlier today in my analysis of the young adult books. It is fair to say that Time Magazine has put together an Almost All White list. People who study children's books know that my "all white" refers to Nancy Larrick's article from the 1960s, in which she noted that the books in her library were almost all white. Over 50 years ago, she made that observation. We're still there, aren't we? Dismal. Depressing.

In only one of the books (to my knowledge), Allan Say's Grandfather's Journey has an accurate depiction of a Native person.

Within the pages of the books on this list, you'll see problematic depictions of Native people in these books (and possibly others):

  • The Berenstain Bears series includes one where Brother Bear and Sister Bear go to a summer camp where Grizzly Bob tells stories dressed up in stereotypical Indian attire.
  • Cooney's Miss Rumphius shows cigar store Indians
  • Holling's Paddle to the Sea has a toy wooden Indian

Next time you weed books in your library, consider replacing some of those books (above) with some excellent books by/about Native people. This page of Best Books includes ones that I recommend, and ones that have won the American Indian Library Association's book awards.

For your convenience, here's Time's list:

Allard, Harry. Miss Nelson is Missing
Allsburg, Chris Van. The Garden of Abdul Gasazi
Anno, Mitsumasa. Anno's Journey
Atwater, Richard and Florence. Mr. Popper's Penguins
Averill, Esther. Jenny and the Cat Club
Barnett, Mac. Extra Yarn
Base, Graeme. Animalia
Becker, Aaron. Journey
Bemelmans, Ludwig. Madeline (series)
Berenstain, Stan and Jan. The Berenstain Bears (series)
Bond, Michael. A Bear Called Paddington
Brown, Margaret Wise. The Color Kittens
Brown, Margaret Wise. Goodnight Moon
Brown, Margaret Wise. The Important Book
Brown, Margaret Wise. The Runaway Bunny
Bradfield, Roger. Hello, Rock
Brown, Marc. Arthur's Nose (series)
Burton, Virginia Lee. Katy and the Big Snow
Burton, Virginia Lee. Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel
Cannon, Janell. Stellaluna
Carle, Eric. The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Cooney, Barbara. Miss Rumphius
Cronin, Doreen. Click, Clack, Moo
Day, Alexandra. Good Dog, Carl
Daywalt, Drew. The Day the Crayons Quit
Deacon, Alexis. Slow Loris
de Brunhoff, Jean. The Story of Babar
Donaldson, Julia. The Gruffalo
Draper, Sharon M. Out of My Mind
Eastman, P. D. Go Dog, Go
Falconer, Ian. Olivia
Freeman, Don. Corduroy
French, Jackie. Diary of a Wombat
Gag, Wanda. Millions of Cats
Gannett, Ruth Stiles. My Father's Dragon
Geisel, Theodore. The Cat in the Hat
Geisel, Theodore. Green Eggs and Ham
Geisel, Theodore. The Lorax
Geisel, Theodore. Oh, the Places You'll Go!
Geisel, Theodore. Yertle the Turtle
Gomi, Taro. Everyone Poops
Henkes, Kevin. Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse
Hills, Tad. How Rocket Learned to Read
Hoban, Russell. Bread and Jam for Frances
Holling, Holling Clancy. Paddle-to-the-Sea
Hurd, Thacher. Mama Don't Allow
Johnson, Crockett. Harold and the Purple Crayon
Joyce, William. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
Kalman, Maira. Sayonara, Mrs. Kackleman
Keats, Ezra Jack. The Snowy Day
Keats, Ezra Jack. Whistle for Willie
Klassen, Jon. I Want My Hat Back
Knudsen, Michelle. Library Lion
Lamorisse, Albert. The Red Balloon
Lawson, Robert. The Story of Ferdinand
Lee, Dennis. Alligator Pie
Lindgren, Astrid. Pippi Longstocking
Litwin, Eric. Pete the Cat (series)
Lobel, Arnold. Frog and Toad (series)
Lowrey, Janette Sebring. The Poky Little Puppy
Martin, Jr. Bill. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom 
McCloskey, Robert. Blueberries for Sal
McCloskey, Robert. Make Way for Ducklings
Milne, A. A. Winnie the Pooh
Minarik, Else Holmelund. Little Bear
Mosel, Arlene. Tikki Tikki Tembo
Munsch, Robert. Love You Forever
Muth, Jon J. The Three Questions
Myers, Walter Dean. Jazz
Nelson, Kadir. We Are the Ship
Numeroff, Laura Joffe. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
Oxenbury, Helen and Rosen, Michael. We're Going on a Bear Hunt
Parish, Peggy. Amelia Bedelia
Piper, Watty. The Little Engine That Could
Potter, Beatrix. The Tale of Peter Rabbit
Prelutsky, Jack. The New Kid on the Block
Say, Allen. Grandfather's Journey
Scarry, Richard. Cars and Trucks and Things That Go
Scheer, Julian. Rain Makes Applesauce
Scieszka, Jon. The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales
Scieszka, Jon. The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs
Sendak, Maurice. In the Night Kitchen
Sendak, Maurice.  Where the Wild Things Are
Silverstein, Shel. The Giving Tree
Silverstein, Shel. Where the Sidewalk Ends
Srinivasan, Divya. Little Owl's Night
Stead, Philip C. A Sick Day for Amos McGee
Steig, William. Brave Irene
Steig, William. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble
Thompson, Kay. Eloise
Tullet, Herve. Press Here
Van Allsburg, Chris. The Stranger
Viorst, Judith. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Wiesner, David. Tuesday
Willems, Mo. Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus
Willems, Mo. Elephant and Piggie (series)
Wright, Blanche Fisher. The Real Mother Goose
Yolen, Jane. Owl Moon
Young, Ed. Lon Po Po
Zion, Gene. Harry the Dirty Dog

Time Magazine's Almost All White list of 100 BEST YOUNG ADULT BOOKS OF ALL TIME

Let's take a look at Time Magazine's list of 100 best young adult books of all time. Here's how they compiled that list (adding this info a couple of hours after I loaded this post):
To honor the best books for young adults and children, TIME compiled this survey in consultation with respected peers such as U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate Ken Nesbitt, children’s-book historian Leonard Marcus, the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature, the Young Readers Center at the Library of Congress, the Every Child a Reader literacy foundation and 10 independent booksellers. 

Ninety-one are by white authors. Nine are by authors of color. Two of the nine authors of color have two books on the list (Myers and Yang):

  • Sherman Alexie
  • Isabel Allende
  • Walter Dean Myers
  • Marilyn Nelson
  • Pam Munoz Ryan
  • Mildred D. Taylor
  • Gene Luen Yang 

With only seven authors of color on the list, I think it is fair to say that Time Magazine has put together an Almost All White list. People who study children's books know that my "all white" refers to Nancy Larrick's article from the 1960s, in which she noted that the books in her library were almost all white. Over 50 years ago, she made that observation. We're still there, aren't we? Dismal. Depressing.

Focusing on Native depictions in the books, there's one book on it that doesn't reduce Native people to caricatures or stereotypes (Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian). It stands alone.  Several books on Time's list have problematic content regarding Native people:

  • Alcott's Little Women (character doing "Indian war whoop" and passage about "Indian in full war costume)
  • Anderson's Tiger Lily (see review)
  • Block's Weetzie Bat (see review)
  • Fitzhugh's Harriet the Spy (when Ole Golly blushes, the text reads that she looked "exactly like a hawk-nosed Indian)
  • Green's The Fault in Our Stars (see review)
  • Meyer's Twilight (see review)
  • Paterson's Bridge to Terabithia (characters go to museum to see dinosaurs and Indians; diorama of Indians hunting buffalo is "three dimensional nightmare version of some of his own drawings)
  • Speare's The Witch of Blackbird Pond (talk of fighting Indians and wolves)
  • Twain's Huckleberry Finn (see review)
  • Wilder's Little House on the Prairie (see reviews)

Next time you weed books in your library, consider replacing some of those books (above) with some excellent books by/about Native people. This page of Best Books includes ones that I recommend, and ones that have won the American Indian Library Association's book awards.

For your convenience, here's Time's list of young adult books, and here's my analysis of their top 100 children's books.

Alcott, Louisa May. Little Women
Alexie, Sherman. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian 
Allende, Isabel. City of the Beasts
Alexander, Lloyd. The Book of Three
Alexander, Lloyd. The Chronicles of Prydain
Anderson, Jodi Lynn. Tiger Lily
Anderson, Laurie Halse. Speak
Anderson, M.T. Feed
Baum, L. Frank. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Block, Francesca Lia. Dangerous Angels (the Weetzie Bat Books)
Blume, Judy. Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret
Bosch, Pseudonymous. Secret (series)
Bradbury, Ray. The Illustrated Man
Bradley, Kimberly Brubaker. For Freedom: The Story of a French Spy
Carroll, Lewis. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Castellucci, Cecil. Boy Proof
Cleary, Beverly. Beezus and Ramona
Clements, Andrew. Frindle
Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games
Cooper, Susan. The Grey King
Cormier, Robert. The Chocolate War
Crutcher, Chris. Whale Talk
Dahl, Roald. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Dahl, Roald. Danny the Champion of the World
Dahl, Roald. Matilda
DiCamillo, Kate. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
DiCamillo, Kate. The Tiger Riding
Donnelly, Jennifer. A Northern Light
Fitzhugh, Louise. Harriet the Spy
Forbes, Esther. Johnny Tremain: A Story of Boston in Revolt
Frank, Anne. The Diary of a Young Girl
Funke, Cornelia. The Thief Lord
Gaiman, Neil. The Graveyard Book
Green, John. The Fault in Our Stars
Green, John. Looking for Alaska
Golding, William. Lord of the Flies
Goldman, William. The Princess Bride
Grahame, Kenneth. The Wind in the Willows
Haddon, Mark. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Hardinge, Frances. The Lost Conspiracy
Hinton, S. E. The Outsiders
Hughes, Richard. A High Wind in Jamaica
Jones, Diana Wynne. Dogsbody
Juster, Norton. The Phantom Tollbooth
Key, Watt. Alabama Moon
Knowles, John. A Separate Peace
Konigsburg, E. L. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
LeGuin, Ursula. A Wizard of Earthsea
Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird
L'Engle, Madeleine. A Wrinkle in Time
Leviathan, David. Every Day
Lewis, C.S. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
London, Jack. The Call of the Wild
Lowry, Lois. The Giver
Lowry, Lois. Number the Stars
McKay, Hilary. Saffy's Angel
Meyer, Stephanie. Twilight
Montgomery, L. M. Anne of Green Gables
Morpurgo, Michael. Private Peaceful
Myers, Walter Dean. Fallen Angels
Myers, Walter Dean. Monster
Nelson, Marilyn. A Wreath for Emmett Till 
Ness, Patrick. The Knife of Never Letting Go
Ness, Patrick. A Monster Calls
Nix, Garth. Sabriel
O'Brien, Robert C. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh
Palacio, R. J. Wonder
Paterson, Katherine. Bridge to Terabithia
Paterson, Katherine. Jacob Have I Loved
Paulsen, Gary. Hatchet
Poe, Edgar Allan. Tales of Mystery and Imagination
Pullman, Phillip. The Golden Compass
Pullman, Philip. His Dark Materials
Raskin, Ellen. The Westing Game
Rawlings, Marjorie Kinnan. The Yearling
Riordan, Rick. The Lightning Thief
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter (series)
Ryan, Pam Munoz. Esperanza Rising
Sachar, Louis. Holes
Salinger, J. D. The Catcher in the Rye
Scott, Michael. The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel
Selznick, Brian. The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Sis, Peter. The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain
Snicket, Lemony. A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning
Speare, Elizabeth George. The Witch of Blackbird Pon
Stead, Rebecca. When You Reach Me
Stewart, Trenton Lee. The Mysterious Benedict Society
Taylor, Mildred D. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
Thompson, Craig. Blankets
Tolkien, J.R.R. The Hobbit
Tolkein, J.R.R. The Lord of the Rings
Travers, P. L. Mary Poppins
Twain, Mark. Huckleberry Finn
Whaley, John Corey. Where Things Come Back
White, E.B. Charlotte's Web
White, T. H. The Sword in the Stone
Wilder, Laura Ingalls. Little House on the Prairie
Yang, Gene Luen. American Born Chinese
Yang, Gene Luen. Boxers and Saints
Zusak, Markus. The Book Thief

Sunday, December 21, 2014


Earlier today I finished reading a NetGalley copy of Nick Lake's There Will Be Lies. Due out in January of 2015, I do not recommend it.

The front matter for There Will be Lies includes a "Dear Reader" letter from Nick Lake. In that letter, he talks about a coyote that he saw in January of 2012:
In January 2012 I was standing on the grounds of a hotel in Scottsdale, Arizona, looking up at the stars, when a coyote ran past me on the path. It noticed me, stopped, and stared at me, shivering.
After a while, it turned and left. That moment stayed with him, he writes, and he knew he'd use it in his writing. He writes that, in fact, it turned into a key moment in There Will Be Lies. He goes on:
Then came something slightly spooky, as often happens with books. You see, what I didn't know until after I'd written the first draft of the novel was that the Navajo believed that a coyote crossed your path you would be hurt, suffer an accident, or be killed.
What is up with the past tense "Navajo believed" line? What are you telling your readers? That Navajos don't exist anymore? Or that they no longer believe whatever you think they believe about coyotes? And where did that info about coyotes come from?

Lake was in Scottsdale, a very wealthy area. Maybe he asked someone? And they told him that bit about coyotes crossing your path? (I think I know the answer; it'll come later on in this review.)

There Will Be Lies is set in Scottsdale. At the end of chapter two, the protagonist--a 17 year old girl named Shelby Jane Cooper--imagines the area 500 years ago (p. 10-11):
...before the settlers came, when the Apache and the Navajo and the Yavapai wandered the desert. Now they don't wander so much--they stick to the Yavapai Nation reservation up in the hills near Flagstaff.
Lake doesn't specify, but I'm guessing he figures his readers will fill in the gaps--that they'll know that the Apache and the Navajo have their own reservations--but I wonder if he (and his readers) know that there's actually more than one Apache Nation? There's the White Mountain Apaches, and the San Carlos Apaches, and the Jicarilla Apache's, too! All different. As for the Yavapai Nation being near Flagstaff? Nope. It is 23 miles northeast of Phoenix, and I kind think they'd be annoyed with Lake telling readers that they "stick" to their reservation. Anybody--Native or not--pretty much sticks to their neighborhoods, going elsewhere for work or school or shopping, but saying this about Native peoples... well, it is bugging me and I'm not sure why.

On page 12, Shelby says this ('she' is her mom):
...she's twenty feet ahead of me now, passing the Apache Dreams restaurant, a low block of a building with floor-to-ceiling windows. As far as I know it serves mainly waffles, which is a weird thing for an Apache to dream about.
Why is that a weird thing for an Apache to dream about? Are we supposed to think that the restaurant itself is owned by an Apache, and that the owner dreamt about waffles and so has a waffle restaurant? Why can't an Apache like waffles? I do.

When we get to page 28, Shelby is in the local library. She goes over to the Native American section. She's never been to that part of the library before. There's a book open on a table. She sees this line:
If Coyote crosses your path, turn back and do not continue your journey. Something terrible will happen--
The title of the book is Navajo Ceremonial Tales. I did a quick search on that title, given my curiosity about where Lake got that information about coyote (in his Dear Reader letter). I found a book by Gerald Hausman with "Navajo Ceremonial Tales" as part of its title. Having reviewed one of his books about a Pueblo story, I did an 'oh-oh' to myself. Then I did a search on that line about coyote crossing your path, and sure enough, Hausman's name comes up, but so do a few other pages, with the exact same line, but... none of them are Navajo sites or voices. The line seems to be coming right out of Hausman's book. Hausman isn't Navajo. He isn't Native at all, but has a LOT of books about various tribes. What is that phrase... dollars to donuts that you wouldn't read any of his books in an American Indian Studies class at any university or college in the US. Maybe you would... in some kind of course in... the UK? Where Lake is from!

At the library, Shelby flirts a bit with a guy named Mark who works there. He wants to get together after his shift but Shelby can't do it. She notices he has a dog tattoo above his collarbone. Outside while waiting for her cab, she's hit by a car. While waiting for an ambulance, a coyote comes up to her. She realizes that Mark's tattoo is a coyote, not a dog. The coyote seems to speak directly into her head. It tells her that there will be "two lies" followed by "the truth."

At the hospital, Shelby wakes to learn that she has a fractured ankle and foot. They'll need to operate in the morning to reduce the displacement of the bones in her foot. There are stitches from her ankle to her toes, and she will be wearing a CAM Walker (air boot) for four weeks. (I'm noting this because I had a fractured ankle in Aug 2014 and the things that Shelby will do next don't jibe with my experience of having a fractured ankle.)

After the operation, Shelby and her mom leave the hospital. She's surprised that her mom has rented a car and that there are suitcases with their clothes in the trunk. They're going on a trip, her mother says, and then she tells Shelby that her dad isn't really dead, as she's been told all her life. He's a violent person, her mom says, who had started hurting Shelby when she was a toddler. It is why Shelby's mom left him, but he's tried to find them before, which prompted them to move from Albuquerque to Phoenix. Now, again, they're leaving, apparently because of him. As they leave Phoenix and drive north in the desert, Shelby thinks (p. 60):
I mean, this landscape hasn't changed since the Native Americans rode their horses across it.
In a lot of places in the U.S., the landscape hasn't changed. I suppose Shelby's words reflect what she gets from television and books--Plains Indians.

Shelby and her mom stop at a campground where her mom gets friendly with a guy there named Luke. Shelby doesn't like it one bit. That night, they sit by the fire talking (p. 68):
They talk Apache culture, which I'm surprised to find Mom knows something about. The Navajo Star Chant, whatever that is. Luke gets very excited about something to do with four sacred colors, or something.
Umm... How do we go from Apache culture to the "Navajo Star Chant"? It suggests to me, again, that Lake is mashing distinct nations together. Recall he did it earlier?

Luke is going to show them some ruins the next day. Shelby and her mom don't have a tent, so they'll sleep in their car. Shelby can't sleep though, and looks out the window. There's a coyote there, and she remembers the line from the book and thinks about Mark.

That night she has a dream where she hears a child crying. It is a recurring dream, but that crying child and "the Dreaming" (that is how it is written over and over) itself will take up a huge part of the rest of the book. I found all of that tedious. Coyote is in those dreams, as are talking elks, and wolves, and snakes... And a crone. And a castle. It is all quite hokey to me, but apparently it is being read as "drawing from Native American mythologies." My best guess? It is drawn from Hausman.

The next morning they ride with Luke to the Agua Fria National Monument. They get started on a trail. This is less than 24 hours after her operation. It doesn't make sense that she would be doing this hike. There are signs telling them the ruins (p. 80):
...belong to the Perry Mesa culture, and date from around 1,000 CE. They predate the Apache, Yavapai or Navajo, and not much is understood about their culture.
Apache, Yavapai, Navajo... again. It is getting a bit redundant. There are a lot more Nations in the area. Why does Lake repeatedly name these three? They look at the ruins and some petroglyphs and then take a steep path down the canyon to a creek. They walk some more and find petroglyphs of elks. Luke reads from a guide book, telling her that elks were sacred to the Perry Mesa people but modern day Yavapai and Apache don't revere them.

Shelby's mom does a lot of very puzzling things that will make sense as you continue reading. Given my focus on Native content, I'm not going to get into Shelby, her mom, or other people that will come into the story.

After another two nights with Luke (at the camp and then in Flagstaff motel), Shelby and her mom take off to a cabin her mom knows about (her mom was a court stenographer and knows the cabin owner won't be there). We're on page 170 at this point (skipping over all the tedious dreaming, with coyote, and elks, and...).

When they go inside, Shelby sees some books about Native Americans on the shelf. They are Stories of the Hopi, and Navajo Firelight and The Mythology of the Major Native American Tribes. Hausman has a book called Turtle Dream: Collected Stories from the Hopi, Navajo, Pueblo, and Havasupai People. Note the word dream in the title...  If I read it, would I find it as the source for Lake's constructions of Shelby's dreams?

A bit later in the book (on page 191), Shelby thinks about her dreams and decides to look over the books (p. 191):
I see one on Apache folk tales so I take it down and go sit again, curling up, the book in my lap. 
She leafs through it to a story about Coyote stealing fire from the Fire God (p. 192):
The Fire God lived in a hogan with high walls. 
Wait... A hogan? I thought she was reading a book about Apache folk tales!

All of "the Dreaming" and lies and "the truth" will resolve but I gotta say, again and again, I was rolling my eyes and uttering curse words as I read this book. The messed up Native content and the not-plausible things Shelby does so soon after fracturing her ankle...  Overall, this book feels very mediocre. As noted above, I read a copy from NetGalley and presumably the author will be able to make corrections based on what people say after reading the NetGalley copy, but there's too much wrong. (NOTE: There are other problems, such as the ways that Shelby talks about her mom's weight, that I didn't like. See Pamela Penzu's review on Goodreads.)

Nick Lake's There Will Be Lies is due out in January of 2015 from Bloomsbury. I do not recommend it.