Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Debbie--have you seen... STONE FIELD by Christy Lenzi

Via Twitter, Pam pointed me to Stone Field: A Novel by Christy Lenzi. Due out on March 29, 2016 from Roaring Book Press (an imprint of Macmillan), here's the synopsis for this young adult novel:
A stunning debut novel that offers a new look at a classic love story about soul mates torn apart by the circumstances of their time.
Catrina Dickinson is haunted by her past and feels caged in by life in small town Missouri. When she discovers a strange man in Stone Field where her family grows their sorghum crop, her life takes on new meaning. He has no memory of who he is or what brought him to Cat's farm, but they fall passionately in love. Meanwhile, the country is on the brink of the Civil War, and the conflict in Missouri demands that everyone take a side before the bloodbath reaches their doorstep.
A passionate and atmospheric reimagining of Emily Bronte's Wuthering HeightsStone Field explores how violence and vengeance perverts the human spirit, and how hatred can be transcended by love.

The synopsis on Goodreads has a bit more detail:

In a small town on the brink of the Civil War, Catrina finds a man making strange patterns in her family’s sorghum crop. He’s mad with fever, naked, and strikingly beautiful. He has no memory of who he is or what he’s done before Catrina found him in Stone Field. But that doesn’t bother Catrina because she doesn’t like thinking about the things she’s done before either.
Catrina and Stonefield fall passionately, dangerously, in love. All they want is to live with each other, in harmony with the land and away from Cat’s protective brother, the new fanatical preacher, and the neighbors who are scandalized by their relationship. But Stonefield can’t escape the truth about who he is, and the conflict tearing apart the country demands that everyone take a side before the bloodbath reaches their doorstep.
Inspired by Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, Stone Field is a passionate and atmospheric story of how violence and vengeance pervert the human spirit, and how hatred can be transcended by love.

Who is that naked beautiful man making patterns in the sorghum field? The review from School Library Journal tell us a bit more. Here's the first two lines:
Inspired by the raw wildness of Wuthering Heights, this tragic romance between a frustrated young Missouri woman and a Creek Indian in Civil War—era Missouri is a natural for readers who enjoy their historical fiction dark and sorrowful. Catrina is an entirely maddening girl: she dresses and speaks improperly. When she meets a mysterious man (whom she calls Stonefield) near her home, she is immediately drawn into a relationship that can never have a happy ending.

So... a Creek Indian guy. If I get the book and read it, or if Jean gets and reads it, we'll be back with a review. 


Back here near the end of the day, to add more info, from the Kirkus review. (h/t Pam)

He’s dark—part African-American or Creek, perhaps—and speaks in quotations from Shakespeare and Walt Whitman. [...] Like all narrators, Cat [Catrina] directs readers to what she cares about. Complex Muscogee Creek history, slavery, life in war-torn Missouri, her father’s health, and her brother’s safety are so much narrative scenery. 
This from Jean: It will be interesting to see how the Muscogee history is sourced, and what is included.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Monique Gray Smith and Julie Flett's MY HEART FILLS WITH HAPPINESS

I've read My Heart Fills With Happiness by Monique Gray Smith, illustrated by Julie Flett, many times. I can't decide--and don't need to, really--which page is my favorite!

For now--for this moment--I just got off the phone with my daughter, Liz. She's not a little girl anymore. She's an adult, making plans for the the coming months as she finishes law school. She makes me so darn happy! When she was little, she liked "spinny skirts." We made several so she'd always have a clean one to wear to school. So, the cover of My Heart Fills With Happiness reminds me of those days with Liz, as she spun about in her spinny skirts.

Like I said, though, I just got off the phone with her, and as I think of her walking about in the many places she's going to be in May and June and July, I'm reminded of holding her hand as the two of us walked here, and there, oh those years ago! That memory, and this page, are so dear!

I love the page that shows a little girl dancing, her shawl gorgeously depicted as she moves. I love the page where the little boy holds a drumstick in his hand and sits at the drum. I love the page of the kids waiting for their bannock to be ready to eat. I'd love to meet the two Native women who created this book so I could thank them, in person.

My Heart Fills With Happiness got a starred review from Publisher's Weekly and another one from School Library Journal. From me, it gets all the stars in the night sky. Today is its birthday (to use the language I see on twitter). Get a copy, or two, from your favorite independent store.

Dear Scholastic: This Is A Test

I have a lot of thoughts in my head this morning, about yesterday's #StepUpScholastic chat on Twitter, and about the Step Up Scholastic campaign, but I am starting with this:

Stone Fox is in 10 bks/$10 box
Last year, Scholastic, working with WNDB, put together a flyer of books specific to diversity. In theory, terrific marketing! BUT.

When I saw the first page of the flyer, I wasn't happy at all to see Stone Fox on it. That book has stereotyping of Native peoples in it, and as such, is the opposite of what kids need if they're to 1) see mirrors of who they are, or 2) see accurate depictions of those who are unlike themselves. With that book on there, Scholastic and WNDB are marketing a problematic book. Stone Fox is in the 10 BOOKS FOR $10 box on bottom right of the flyer shown here.

Late yesterday, Scholastic announced an expansion of its partnership with We Need Diverse Books. They're going to do eight flyers this year. Will these flyers have Stone Fox? Will they have books by Native writers? When I looked inside last year's flyer, I saw two books by Joseph Bruchac, but that's not enough.

Last year's partnership, and this expansion of that partnership, are steps in the right direction but if Scholastic is seriously committed to diversity and providing children with books that truly educate--rather than ones that miseducate children about Native peoples--here's what they need to do (saying they in this post but I know Scholastic is reading this, so I could say YOU instead):
  1. Acquire more books by Native writers and put those books in the flyers, all year long, not just in the special flyers about diversity. And on the teacher webpages. And in book fairs. Maximize the distribution, here and around the globe, too. Last night I learned a little about the flyers you publish around the globe. You're exporting stereotypes. That has to stop. 
  2. Seek out books by Native writers--books published by other publishers--and get them into the flyers. Do it now. Today. I understand there's "rights" issues associated with all this but also think that your billion+ revenue could be leveraged somehow to make this happen. Get them in the diversity flyers but in all flyers. Like I said above: all year round. Every grade level. Every month.
  3. Remove books that misrepresent Native peoples from all flyers and from their website, too. There's absolutely no reason to continue to market Island of the Blue Dolphins. Or Hiawatha (the one by Susan Jeffers). Or Touching Spirit Bear. Or Sign of the Beaver. Or The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses. Or Julie of the Wolves. Or Indian in the Cupboard. Those are some of the books you distribute. STOP. And I know there are others, too. 
  4. Take some of that billion dollar revenue and hire people with expertise---not just in kidlit---but in Native Studies, to help you with all these tasks. I'm not asking you to hire me. But I think I can help you find people who would work with you. All this money you're making, right here on what used to be Native lands... come on. Step Up. 

Ebony Elizabeth Thomas has been doing some writing about distinctions between marketing, advocacy, and activism that I find helpful as we all live through these periods of fighting for change in what we get from the publishing industry. The Scholastic flyers are marketing. I think it is marketing borne from activism, but as I noted above, there's a lot more to do with what Scholastic publishes, and what they choose to market.

Some people think I hate Scholastic. Some people think I hate white people. Neither is true. Last night I did a series of tweets about how much I love Shadowshaper and If I Ever Get Out of Here. I wanna see several of the people who made those two books possible, working in-house at Scholastic, getting us more books like that.

I'll be waiting to see the new flyers. Not just the diversity ones. Every single one. They are a way to measure what Scholastic is doing. Doing content analyses of the flyers provide us with a way to test what Scholastic is doing. The flyers, as I view them, are a test that--if passed--could win back the trust they've lost.


My post from last year: Books to get (and avoid) from the WNDB/Scholastic Reading Club Collaboration

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Debbie--have you seen.... Danna Smith's ARCTIC WHITE

In January, a major publisher (Holt, an imprint of Macmillan), released Arctic White, a picture book by Danna Smith. Here's the synopsis:

When you live in the Arctic in winter, everything is a shade of white. 
A young girl looks around her home in the Arctic and sees only white, white, white...but one day her grandfather takes her on a journey through the tundra.  And at the end of their cold walk across the ice, they find something special that brings color into their world.

The reviewer at Kirkus writes that the setting and culture aren't clear. Here's part of that review:
A modern paint box, a bound book, and a flashlight, together with the second-person, present-tense address (placing readers inside the story), imply a contemporary setting, but this girl lives a nonindustrialized life in an iglu, even though most contemporary indigenous Arctic people live in houses. The lack of any specific indigenous nation and some faux Native philosophy—“Grandfather says hope is golden. You can only see it when you look into a snowy owl’s eyes”—add to the romanticized Native image. Jan Bourdeau Waboose’s SkySisters (2000), an Ojibwe story about walking across tundra to see the northern lights, is a better choice.

I absolutely love SkySisters and am thrilled to see Kirkus sending readers to it instead! If I get a copy of Arctic White and read it, I'll be back with a review. For now, I think I'd agree with the Kirkus review.

Debbie--have you seen... TRU & NELLE by G. Neri?

A reader asked me about G. Neri's Tru & Nelle. Here's the synopsis:
Long before they became famous writers, Truman Capote (In Cold Blood) and Harper Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird) were childhood friends in Monroeville, Alabama. This fictionalized account of their time together opens at the beginning of the Great Depression, when Tru is seven and Nelle is six. They love playing pirates, but they like playing Sherlock and Watson-style detectives even more. It’s their pursuit of a case of drugstore theft that lands the daring duo in real trouble. Humor and heartache intermingle in this lively look at two budding writers in the 1930s South.
With Harper Lee's death and the publication last year of Go Set A Watchman, this book is timely and could do quite well. My quick look inside in the "look inside" feature at Amazon tells me there's a character in it named Indian Joe.

If I get it, and read it, I'll be back. If you got it, and read it, let me know!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Debbie--have you seen... RED MOON RISING by K. A. Holt

Woah. Some books are so.... out there, that I have a hard time wrapping my head around them. K. A. Holt's Red Moon Rising is one of those books. Here's the synopsis:

Space-farmer Rae Darling is kidnapped and trained to become a warrior against her own people in this adventurous middle grade space western.
Rae Darling and her family are colonists on a moon so obscure it doesn’t merit a name. Life is hard, water is scarce, and the farm work she does is grueling. But Rae and her sister Temple are faced with an added complication—being girls is a serious liability in their strict society. Even worse, the Cheese—the colonists’ name for the native people on the moon—sometimes kidnap girls from the human colony. And when Rae’s impetuous actions disrupt the fragile peace, the Cheese come for her and Temple.
Though Rae and Temple are captives in the Cheese society, they are shocked to discover a community full of kindness and acceptance. Where the human colonists subjugated women, the Cheese train the girls to become fierce warriors. Over time, Temple forgets her past and becomes one of the Cheese, but Rae continues to wonder where her loyalties truly lie. When her training is up, will she really be able to raid her former colony? Can she kidnap other girls, even if she might be recruiting them to a better life?
When a Cheese raid goes wrong and the humans retaliate, Rae’s loyalty is put to the ultimate test. Can Rae find a way to restore peace—and preserve both sides of herself?

Did you read the synopsis? Every word of it? Do you see what I mean?

The moon in this story has been colonized.

The native people who lived there are called "the Cheese."

They kidnap girls from "the human colony."

So... are the Cheese not human?

The Cheese kidnap the women to turn them into warriors who will fight against with the Cheese--against the humans.

Rae and her sister find out that the Cheese treat women better than the humans did.


I need one of those images of face palm, or head desk. Or a cool GIF. Daniel José Older always tweets some excellent ones. Where does he find those, I wonder?!

Red Moon Rising is out this year, from...  Wait for it...  A major publisher! It is from Margaret K. McElderry, which is an imprint of Simon and Schuster. That is one of the Big Five! Big bucks for the author, big bucks for the promo of the book.

I'm certainly being cynical in what I've said. Maybe I'll regret it. Maybe this book is gonna rock.

I'll be back.

Update: Saturday Feb 27

Author Martha Brockenbrough submitted a comment, noting that my use of "big bucks" suggests that people can make a living with their writing. I'm glad for her note. Being published by a big house does give writers a huge leg up in terms of visibility of their book, but it doesn't mean the writer can quit their day job(s). That could come later, after a lot of success and a lot of work, but it isn't the norm.

Debbie--have you seen... SOME KIND OF COURAGE by Dan Gemeinhart

Jessica, a reader of AICL, wrote to ask me about Dan Gemeinhart's Some Kind of Courage. Out in 2016 from Scholastic, here's the synopsis:

Joseph Johnson has lost just about everyone he's ever loved. He lost his pa in an accident. He lost his ma and his little sister to sickness. And now, he's lost his pony-fast, fierce, beautiful Sarah, taken away by a man who had no right to take her.
Joseph can sure enough get her back, though. The odds are stacked against him, but he isn't about to give up. He will face down deadly animals, dangerous men, and the fury of nature itself on his quest to be reunited with the only family he has left.
Because Joseph Johnson may have lost just about everything. But he hasn't lost hope. And he hasn't lost the fire in his belly that says he's getting his Sarah back-no matter what.
The critically acclaimed author of The Honest Truth returns with a poignant, hopeful, and action-packed story about hearts that won't be tamed... and spirits that refuse to be broken.

It is a middle grade Western, set in 1890. A couple of things I see via Google Books give me pause:
"She's half Indian pony, so she's got some spirit, but she ain't nothing but perfect with me."
"It was Indians. [...] The boy's eyes narrowed. He bared his teeth like a wolf and snarled a word low and mean in his native tongue."
I will try to get a copy to read/review. If I do, I'll be back!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

#StepUpScholastic - What I Don't See in Feb 2016 Flyers for Early Childhood, K, 1st, and 2nd Grade Readers

You remember those Scholastic catalogs your teachers would pass out from time to time? Thinking about them is a powerful memory--for me--because I loved reading. I still do! I was a kid in the 60s. I wish I had one of those catalogs now, so I could see how the books I chose from compare to those in this year's catalogs.

American Indians in Children's Literature is part of the #StepUpScholastic campaign that invites parents, students, teachers, librarians--anyone, really--to study the books Scholastic offers in their flyers (they say flyer, some say catalog, others say club forms). Once you study a flyer, you can write a letter to Scholastic telling them what you were looking for, and what you found--or didn't find.

I'm looking for books by Native people, but if I see a good one about Native people that is written by someone who is not Native, I'd buy it.

Let's take a look at what kids are getting this month (February of 2016). First, a screen capture of that page so you know what it looks like:

Early Childhood:

On the first page, I see Happy Valentines Day, Little Critter. I bet the Little Critter Thanksgiving book was in their November catalog. I wouldn't get that one. In fact, I have it on my "not recommended" list. On the second page, I see a Pete the Cat boxed set. I bet the November catalog had Pete the Cat's Thanksgiving book. It, too, is on my "not recommended" list. There's a Pinkalicious set, too. I bet the Thanksgiving catalog had the Pinkalicious Thanksgiving book... Also, not recommended.

So what did I find? No books by Native writers; no books about Native people or with Native characters. Native people--good or bad--are completely missing from this flyer.


On page three, I see Stuart Little. It kind of has an image of a Native person. In that book, Stuart imagines an Indian paddling in a canoe. On page four there's a set of all the Junie B. Jones books. My guess is that it includes Shipwrecked which has the kids doing a play about Christopher Columbus. Turkeys We Have Loved is about Thanksgiving, and it has the kids doing a play about Thanksgiving. One girl is dressed up as a Native American.

What did I find? No books by Native writers; one character playing Indian.

First graders:

On page three is Polar Bear Patrol in the Magic School Bus series. In it is Dr. Luke, an Inuit scientist who teaches the kids about the Arctic and that he prefers Inuit to Eskimo. On page five is the Junie B. Jones Shipwrecked that was in the Kindergarten catalog.

I found no books by Native writers; one character who is Inuit. I don't have that book on my shelf so can't tell if the depiction of Dr. Luke is one that is free of bias or stereotyping.

Second graders:

On page two are boxed sets of the Magic Tree House books. One is Thanksgiving on Thursday. There's a Native character in it. You know which one, right? Squanto! The stories told about him are pretty much a whitewash of what his life really was, but Thanksgiving on Thursday took that whitewashing to a whole new level. Another book in the series is Buffalo Before Breakfast. In it the Jack and Annie travel to a Lakota camp. There are many errors in that story and the part where the wise Lakota grandmother gives Jack and Annie an eagle feather? That doesn't work at all, because when they travel back to the present day, having that eagle feather is a violation of federal law.

No books by Native writers; a handful of stereotypical Indians and some factual errors.


I'll have to find time to look through the catalogs for third, fourth, fifth, and sixth graders. And the seven different catalogs in their "Wider" selection category. And the four in their "Special Collections" category.

In the meantime, I'm going to the campaign page and I'll be submitting a letter saying this:

Dear Scholastic:
I am looking for books by or about Native peoples. When I looked through your preschool, kindergarten, first, and second grade flyers for Feb of 2016 I found no books by Native writers or illustrators. NONE. ZERO. 
Equally troubling is what I did find: several books in which the author stereotypes or misrepresents Native people/history/culture. For your records, those problematic books are:

  • Buffalo Before Breakfast by Mary Pope Osborne
  • Junie B. Jones: Shipwrecked by Barbara Park
  • Stuart Little by E. B. White
  • Thanksgiving on Thursday by Mary Pope Osborne
  • Junie B. Jones: Turkeys We Have Loved by Barbara Park

Magic School Bus: Polar Bear Patrol by Joanna Cole might be ok. If I find a copy, I'll be back with an update. Will it be the one book out of 410 items on the order form that I would buy? 
Actually--there's more than 410 books total across those four flyers. Some of the items are sets, like the 49 books in Item #46L6 (Magic Tree House Pack Books 1-28) and #47L6 (Magic Tree House Pack Books 29-49). If I add those 49 to the 410, I can say that...
Out of 459 books, none are by Native writers or illustrators. 
Please, Scholastic, you can do better than that. All children ought to learn the names of Native writers and illustrators, and their respective nations, too! You, Scholastic, tell us that you have children's interests at the core of your company and what it publishes. I see lot of room for improvement. #StepUpScholastic. Do better.
Debbie Reese
American Indians in Children's Literature


People are already submitting letters. You can see them at the Tumblr page for the campaign. Please join this effort to get more diversity in Scholastic's catalogs.

Published in 2015: Books by/about Native peoples

I will be updating this page whenever I read something published in 2015. What it likely means is that a title will be added to the "Not Reviewed" list at the end, and when it is reviewed, it will be moved into the Recommended or Not Recommended list. 

Recommended (N=15)

Not Recommended (N=26)
  • Alko, Selina. (2015) The Case for LovingPublished by Scholastic.
  • Arnold, David. (2015) MosquitolandPublished by Viking, an imprint of Penguin.
  • Asch, Frank. (1979/2015) PopcornPublished by Simon and Schuster.
  • Bowman, Erin. (2015) Vengeance RoadPublished by Houghton Mifflin.
  • Carson, Rae. (2015) Walk on Earth a StrangerPublished by Greenwillow, an imprint of HarperCollins.
  • Cromwell, Ellen S. (2015) Talasi: A Story of Tenderness and Love! Published by Halo Publishing International.
  • Daniels, Danielle. (2015). Sometimes I Feel Like a FoxPublished by Groundwood Books.
  • DeFelice, Cynthia. (2015) Fort. Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
  • Ellis, Carson. (2015) HomePublished by Candlewick.
  • Hites, Kati. (2015). Winnie and WaldorfPublished by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins.
  • Hand, Cynthia. (2015) The Last Time We Say Goodbye. Published by HarperTeen.
  • Howath, Naomi. (2015) The Crow's Tale: A Lenni Lenape Native American Legend. Published by Frances Lincoln Children's Books, an imprint of Quatro.
  • Jenkins, Emily. (2015) A Fine Dessert. Published by Schwartz & Wade, an imprint of Random House.
  • Johnston, E. K. (2015) Prairie Fire. Published by Carolrhoda Lab.
  • Merriam-Webster Children's Dictionary (2015) Published by Dorling Kindersley.
  • Mayer, Mercer. (2015) Just A Special ThanksgivingPublished by HarperFestival, an imprint of HarperCollins.
  • Myers, Stephenie. (2015) Life and DeathPublished by Little, Brown. 
  • Nelson, S.D. (2015) Sitting Bull. Published by Abrams.
  • Rex, Adam. (2015) Smek for PresidentPublished by Hyperion Books for Children.
  • Rose, Carolyn Starr. (2015) Blue BirdsPublished by G.P. Putnam, an imprint of Penguin.
  • Schlitz, Laura Amy. (2015) The Hired GirlPublished by 
  • Stirling, Tricia. (2015) When My Heart Was WickedPublished by Scholastic. 
  • Strayhorn, Willa (2015) The Way We Bared Our SoulsPublished by Razorbill, an imprint of Penguin Random House. 
  • Taylor-Butler, Christine. (2015) The Lost Tribes. Published by Move Books.
  • Valente, Catherynne M. (2015) Six Gun Snow WhitePublished by Subterranean Press.
  • Velasquez, Crystal. (2015) Hunters of ChaosPublished by Simon and Schuster.
  • White, Tara. (2015). Where I BelongPublished by Tradewind Books.

Not yet reviewed (N=20)
  • Bruchac, Joseph. (2015) Walking Two Worlds. Published by 7th Generation.
  • Bruchac, Joseph. (2015) Trail of the Dead. Published by Tu Books.
  • Burgan, Michael. (2015) Shadow Catcher: How Edgar S. Curtis Documented American Indian Dignity and Beauty. Published by Compass Point, an imprint of Capstone. 
  • Coleman, Wim. (2015) Sequoyah and His Talking Leaves. Published by Red Chair Press.
  • Cooper, Karen Coody (2015) Woodchuck Visits Algonquian Cousins. Published by Soddenbank Press.
  • Florence, Melanie. (2015) Missing Nimama. Published by Clockwise Press. 
  • George, Jean Craighead. (2015) Ice Whale. Published by Puffin Books.
  • Hicks, Nola Helen. (2015) Hurry Up, Ilua. Published by Inhabit Media. 
  • Goble, Paul. (2015) Red Cloud's War. Published by Wisdom Tales.
  • Guest, Jacqueline. (2015) Fire Fight. Published by 7th Generation.
  • Kristofic, Jim. (2015) The Hero Twins: A Navajo-English Story of the Monster Slayers. Published by UNM Press.
  • London, Jonathan. (2015) Desolation Canyon. Published by West Winds Press.
  • Lumbard, Alexis York. (2015) Pine and the Winter Sparrow. Published by Wisdom Tales.
  • Revelle, Rick. (2015) Algonquin Spring. Published by Dundurn Press.
  • Robinson, Gary. (2015) Billy Buckhorn: Paranormal. Published by 7th Generation.
  • Schwartz, Simon. (2015) First Man: Reimagining Matthew Hensen. Published by Graphic Universe. 
  • Silver, Sarah Dickson. (2015) Dream a Pony, Wake a Spirit: The Story of Buster, a Choctaw Pony Survivor. Published by Luminare Press. 
  • Tripp, Analisa. (2015) A Is for Acorn: A California Indian ABC. Published by Heyday Books.
  • Williams-Garcia, Rita. (2015) Gone Crazy in Alabama. Published by Harper.
  • Zobel, Melissa Tantaquidgeon (2015) Wabanaki Blues. Published by Poisoned Pencil. 

Debbie--have you seen... Joseph Bruchac's THE LONG RUN

Out this year from 7th Generation is Joseph Bruchac's The Long Run. It is in their PathFinders series.
Follow Travis Hawk on a cross-country trek as he escapes a world of brutality and uncertainty and puts his trust, and even his very life, in the hands of total strangers. Travis's story is one of struggle, survival, risk and resilience, navigating a solo journey of hundreds of miles to seek a safe haven far from the demons of his past.
I'll be back with a review!

Debbie--have you seen... Michelle Modesto's REVENGE AND THE WILD

A reader sent me a copy of Michelle Modesto's Revenge and the Wild. Published in 2016 by HarperCollins, here's the synopsis.

True Grit meets True Blood in this delightfully dark and fantastical Western perfect for fans of Gail Carriger, Cassandra Clare, and Holly Black. This thrilling novel is a remarkable tale of danger and discovery, from debut author Michelle Modesto.
The two-bit town of Rogue City is a lawless place, full of dark magic and saloon brawls, monsters and six-shooters. But it’s just perfect for seventeen-year-old Westie, the notorious adopted daughter of local inventor Nigel Butler.
Westie was only a child when she lost her arm and her family to cannibals on the wagon trail. Seven years later, Westie may seem fearsome with her foul-mouthed tough exterior and the powerful mechanical arm built for her by Nigel, but the memory of her past still haunts her. She’s determined to make the killers pay for their crimes—and there’s nothing to stop her except her own reckless ways.
But Westie’s search ceases when a wealthy family comes to town looking to invest in Nigel’s latest invention, a machine that can harvest magic from gold—which Rogue City desperately needs as the magic wards that surround the city start to fail. There’s only one problem: the investors look exactly like the family who murdered Westie’s kin. With the help of Nigel’s handsome but scarred young assistant, Alistair, Westie sets out to prove their guilt. But if she’s not careful, her desire for revenge could cost her the family she has now.

When I get a chance to read it, I'll be back. I don't know if westerns are seeing an uptick of late. I'm definitely seeing them, but they may have been out there a long time and I didn't know about them. I don't mean historical fiction--I mean westerns, which as a genre, feel different to me than historical fiction.


Sarah Dickson Silver's Dream a Pony: Wake a Spirit: The Story of Buster, a Choctaw Pony Survivor, is on my to-read list this year. Published in 2015 by Luminare Press, here's the synopsis:
In the Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory, in the year 1900, friendships between children of white “intruders” and their Choctaw and Chickasaw schoolmates had to cross a deep cultural divide. It was also a time when public ignorance could make a mockery of the ambitions of a boy with dwarfism and a place where children had to grow up fast. Trouble begins when a beautiful wild stallion, a supposed man killer, is rescued by two adventurous young brothers. When the stallion is identified as a rare Choctaw horse, the question of who should own him threatens to destroy cherished friendships. Then a courageous decision by a young boy allows the ancient spirit of Buster, their Choctaw Pony survivor, to live on for future generations to love and respect.

If I am able to read it, I'll be back with a review.

Debbie--have you seen... Joseph Bruchac's BROTHERS OF THE BUFFALO

Out this year from Fulcrum is Bruchac's Brothers of the Buffalo: A Novel of the Red River War. Here's the synopsis:
1874, the U.S. Army sent troops to subdue and move the Native Americans of the southern plains to reservations.Brothers of the Buffalo follows Private Washington Vance Jr., an African-American calvaryman, and Wolf, a Cheyenne warrior, during the brief and brutal war that followed. Filled with action and suspense from both sides of the battle, this is a tale of conflict and unlikely friendship in the Wild West.

I'll put it in my to-read pile. It is being marketed as for kids in grade 7 and up.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

AICL's Recommended/Not Recommended Reads in 2015

This is a list of books I read in 2015, sorted into categories of Recommended (total of 16), and Not Recommended (47 in all). As you see, it is not a list of books that came out in 2015. Grand total: 60 (and counting). There is one writer on the recommended list who is not Native (Daniel José Older) and one on the Not Recommended list who is Native (Tara White). Links go to my review on AICL, and some of the links go to my article at School Library Journal

This is not a comprehensive list. There are books that I bought or received but wasn't able to read or finish writing up. One example is Ann Martin's Claudia and the First Thanksgiving. That's a book in the Babysitters Club series. It was one that will end up with a Recommended tag when I write it up. 


Not Recommended

Here's my Recommended/Not Recommended List for 2014. Last year, there were 26 books on the Recommended list, and 35 on the Not Recommended list. Grand total then: 61.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Debbie--have you seen... J. Albert Mann's SCAR: A REVOLUTIONARY WAR TALE

A reader asked if I've seen J. Albert Mann's Scar: A Revolutionary War Tale published in 2016. A second reader sent me a copy. The publishing info is interesting. It says:
Calkins Creek
An Imprint of Highlights
When I look it up online using "Calkins Creek," I'm directed to Boyds Mills Press. Sometime I ought to find out how all this "imprint" thing works!

I'll read the copy I was sent, but for now it is in my "Debbie-have you seen..." series. Here's the synopsis:
Sixteen-year-old Noah Daniels wants nothing more than to fight in George Washington’s Continental Army, but an accident as a child left him maimed and unable to enlist. He is forced to watch the Revolution from his family’s hard scrabble farm in Upstate New York—until a violent raid on his settlement thrusts him into one of the bloodiest battles of the American Revolution, and ultimately, face to face with the enemy. A riveting coming of age story, this book also includes an author’s note and bibliography.

From the Kirkus review, I see that Scar is "a wounded Mohawk soldier allied with the British" and from SLJ's review, I see that it "sheds light" on the "Iroquois Confederacy's alliance with the British."

That's all I have for now. When I read it, I'll be back with a link to a review.

Sunday, February 14, 2016


With President's Day upon us, people are pulling out picture books about Lincoln, like Maira Kalman's Looking at Lincoln. The child in the book reveres Lincoln. Most Americans do, I think, but what we know about him is... incomplete.

What do you know about Lincoln and Native peoples?

Most people do not know that he issued an order for the mass execution of 38 Dakota men. It was the largest mass execution in the United States. That is not included in Kalman's book.

Is mass execution not age appropriate? Violence is ok, as these pages demonstrate.

One page shows a uniform with a bullet hole in it:

And there's a page showing a numbered grave:

And Kalman includes a page about Lincoln's assassination:

So.... what to make of decisions of what to include, and what not to include. Of course, her book--or any book--can't include everything. True enough, but I wonder what we'd find if we started looking carefully. Would we find it in any books?

Earlier in the book, the little girl goes to a library and finds out there's over 16,000 books about him. I wonder how many of those are for children and young adults, and of them, I wonder if any of them include that mass execution?

What do you think about what is included, and what is not included?

Thursday, February 11, 2016

THE CROW'S TALE by Naomi Howarth

The Crow's Tale by Naomi Howarth came out last year (2015) from Frances Lincoln Children's Books. That's a publisher in London.

The complete title of Howarth's book is The Crow's Tale: A Lenni Lenape Native American Legend. 

In her "About the story" note, Howarth writes:
The Rainbow Crow -- a Pennsylvania Lenni Lenape Indian legend--is the perfect example of a story that was first told to explain the mysteries of the natural world. When I came across this beautiful tale, my imagination was immediately soaring with Rainbow Crow across wide winter skies and landscapes. The tale has been passed down through generations of Lenni Lenape Indians, mostly orally, and I have tried to remain true to the narrative, although I have visualized the Creator as the Sun, as I wanted to make the Sun a character in his own right.

On her website page for the book, I see this:
Inspired by a Lenape Native American myth, this beautiful debut picture book shows how courage and kindness are what really matter.

Yes, courage and kindness matter, but so do other things. Clearly Howarth felt that she was doing a good thing with this story.

I have several questions.

What is the source Howarth used for this story? She doesn't tell us, which means we can't tell if her source is legitimate, or, if it is amongst the too-many-made-up stories attributed to Native peoples. Without that information, teachers are in a bind. Can they use this book to teach students about Lenni Lenape people and culture?

Is Howarth's story a Lenni Lenape one if she changed a key part of it? She tells us that she visualized Creator as the sun. Could she (or anyone) do that--say--with the Christian God and still call that story a Christian one? Maybe, but I think most people would say that doing so would be tampering with a religion in ways that border on sacrilege. How do the Lenni Lenape people visualize Creator? Did she talk with them, to see if she could depict Creator as the sun?

By "them" I mean--did Howarth talk with someone who has the authority to work with her on this project? Increasingly, tribal nations are working to protect their stories by setting up protocol's researchers and writers should use if they're going to do anything related to their people, history, culture, etc.

As we might predict, Howarth's book is well-received in some places. This morning I read that this story is on the shortlist for a 2016 Waterstones Children's Book Prize. If you're in the UK, or if you know people in the UK who are on the committee, please ask them these questions. You could ask Howarth, if you know her, or her editor (I don't know who that is). Asking questions is what leads to change.

Published in 2015, The Crow's Tale by Naomi Howarth is not recommended.

Evangeline Parsons-Yazzie on Winning the American Indian Library Association's 2016 Youth Literature Honor Award for Young Adults

I'm pleased to share Evangeline Parsons-Yazzie's response to the news that Her Land, Her Love had been selected by the American Indian Library Association for one of its honors.


Evangeline said:

On Friday February 5th, when I was first told by my publisher, Eric Lockard of Salina Bookshelf, Inc., that my novel had been selected by the American Indian Library Association as an Honor Book in the Young Adult category, I held my breath and asked Eric to repeat the news to me.  I wanted to hear the news several more times but my memory has been doing that for me.  

A heart-felt appreciation and deep gratitude is what I feel toward the awards committee who selected my novel, Her Land, Her Love as an Honor Book. I am still in awe of the beautiful blessing that the people on the committee have bestowed upon my novel.  

Her Land, Her Love is my first novel and one that I cherished through the years as I wrote and rewrote it. To obtain the voice of Navajo elders, I began by turning toward the stories my maternal grandmother and my father told me regarding the Navajo Long Walk which is a painful time in Navajo history.  Not only has the committee blessed me, it has also blessed Navajo elders with whom I consulted to obtain the truth about the Long Walk.

I also praise and thank the Lord for the gift of writing that He instilled within me. It has been five days since I heard the news and I am still smiling!

Once again, I thank the American Indian Library Association's awards committee for the honor of their recognition for my work.  

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Lisa Charleyboy on Winning the American Indian Library Association's 2016 Middle Grade Honor Award for DREAMING IN INDIAN

I'm pleased to share Lisa Charleyboy's response to the news that Dreaming in Indian was named as the American Indian Library Association's 2016 Honor Book in the Middle Grade category: 

I am truly honoured to have 'Dreaming in Indian' recognized in the Middle School Category in the 2016 American Indian Youth Literature Awards. It has been an absolute dream for me to have worked with my co-editor Mary Beth Leatherdale in creating this anthology so that more youth across Turtle Island would be able to learn about the Indigenous experience.
It was truly our goal to use this book to enlighten and empower and being recognized in prestigious awards such as this allows the book to reach more people which is truly a blessing! 

Do take time to watch this video. In it, Lisa and her co-editor, Mary Beth Leatherdale, talk about the ideas, development, and reception to their book. In personal conversations with librarians, I can say that it is a big hit in their libraries.

Dreaming in Indian was reviewed on AICL on September 8 of 2014. Click on over to the review to get a peek of what is inside this terrific book. Congratulations, Lisa and Mary Beth! This book is a feast.

Debby Slier's LOVING ME

Debby Slier's Loving Me is a delightful board book! Published in 2013 by Star Bright Books, it is definitely one I'll be recommending!

Here's the cover:

The very last page in the book tells us the woman and baby on the cover are Shoshone Bannock. Indeed, with that page we learn that the other photographs in the book are of children and family members who are Lakota Sioux, Navajo, Iroquois, and Potawatomi.

On the first page, we see a mom and baby. The text is "My mother loves me." That pattern is repeated over the rest of the book. A dad, a brother, a sister, an aunt, an uncle, a grandma, a grandpa, and a great grandma... embracing a child. They're clad in a range of clothing, from jeans and t-shirts to traditional clothing, but all of it in the day-to-day life of the individuals being shown. Slier's photo essay is a terrific mirror for Native kids, and, it'll help children and adults who aren't Native see us as in the fullness of our lives as Native people.

I heartily recommend Slier's Loving Me, published by Star Bright Books.

Sunday, February 07, 2016


When I learned that Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock's The Smell of Other People's Houses has Native characters in it, the title took on a dark connotation. Central to European and US racism towards Native peoples was their characterization of Native peoples as primitive, dirty, and in need of "civilizing."  Thanks to a friend who was at the American Library Association's Midwinter meeting last month, I was able to read an advance reader's copy of it.

Most of Hitchcock's story takes place in Fairbanks in 1970. Here's the synopsis:

In Alaska, 1970, being a teenager here isn’t like being a teenager anywhere else. This deeply moving and authentic debut is for fans of Rainbow Rowell, Louise Erdrich, Sherman Alexie, and Benjamin Alire Saenz. Intertwining stories of love, tragedy, wild luck, and salvation on the edge of America’s Last Frontier introduce a writer of rare talent.
Ruth has a secret that she can’t hide forever. Dora wonders if she can ever truly escape where she comes from, even when good luck strikes. Alyce is trying to reconcile her desire to dance, with the life she’s always known on her family’s fishing boat. Hank and his brothers decide it’s safer to run away than to stay home—until one of them ends up in terrible danger.
Four very different lives are about to become entangled. This unforgettable book is about people who try to save each other—and how sometimes, when they least expect it, they succeed. 

The story is told in alternating chapters, by Ruth, Dora, Alyce, and Hank. This review is primarily about Dora.

The book starts out with Ruth. Her little sister is named Lily. They live with their grandmother. I believe they are white. Nothing in the story tells me they are not white. As the story begins, Ruth and her friend Selma, and Lily and her friend Bunny (Lily and Bunny are 11 years old) are about to sit down to eat together. Bunny gets to talking about the fish camp her family goes to. Lily asks Gran why they don't have a fish camp, and gran says "because we aren't native."

To that, Bunny says (on page 17 of the ARC):
"I'm not native, I'm Athabascan." 
Clearly, she objects to being called native. Ruth and Selma laugh at her. Lily (Ruth's little sister) responds:
"What's so funny? She is Athabascan," says Lily. "Natives are the people like Dora's mom, the ones who hang out all day at the bar--they're too drunk to even bother fishing."
Remember--Lily is eleven years old, but she apparently holds some rather stereotypical ideas about Native people. Maybe because she's eleven, we're meant to excuse her remark.

Later on that page we learn a little more, from Ruth:
Fish camps are pretty much handed down from family to family, but maybe Gran shouldn't have lumped all Alaska Natives together. It didn't seem to make Bunny very happy. Especially because Bunny and Dumpling actually have the nicest parents in Birch Park. 
Are there tensions in Alaska between different Alaska Native groups that would cause Bunny to be upset that gran would use "native" to describe her and her family? Are her objections specific to the alcoholism of Dora's mother? Are we to understand that "natives" in Alaska are more likely to be alcoholic than Athabascans? From Dora, we learn that most people in Fairbanks "lump all native people together" and that she (Dora) is Eskimo or Inupiat, while Dumpling is Athabascan, or Indian (p. 27-28).

As the synopsis indicates, Dora is one of the main characters in the story. Her escape is from her own home. Her dad, we read, drinks, too. But there's more: her dad sexually abuses her, and her mother knows about it. Near the end of the story, he beats up her mother and threatens to shoot Dora. By then, Dora has been living next door with Bunny and Dumpling's family for awhile.

When Dora wins some money, her mother pesters her for it so she can buy more beer. When her dad gets out of jail for shooting up the bar, he wants her money, too.

There are characters in the story that might be Eskimo or Inupiat (not sure what Dora's preferred term is). George, the old guy who works at Goodwill, knew Dora's great grandparents, but I can't tell if he's Eskimo/Inupiat or not. Nick, the bartender with nice teeth might be, too. Dora's mom dated him for awhile. If these two men are Eskimo/Inupiat, that would be cool, because they're likeable. But--we don't know.

And then there's Dora's mom's friends, Paula and Annette. Paula has a beaded wallet, so maybe she's Eskimo/Inupiat. The three woman are loud and drink together, a lot. Paula seems nice enough but the vibe I get of them is not good. In that scene in which Dora's father threatens to shoot her, Paula and Annette came running out of the house, abandoning Dora's mom.

The contrast between the Bunny and Dumpling's Athabascan family and Dora's Eskimo or Inupiat family, is striking. In the Athabascan home, Dora feels safe and cared for. Dumpling's family may be shown that way so that we'd have more than one image of Native peoples, but I wish that we were given more information about Dora's parents so that we might understand them as more than the stereotypical drunken and violent Indians. Why do they throw pictures across the room, cracking the glass and putting them back on the wall, with that cracked glass? What is the backstory on them? Without it, I think this story confirms troubling stereotypes. I'm also unsettled by the sexual abuse. Sexual abuse of Native women is rampant, and while there's no doubt that incest is part of that, I wish that wasn't part of Dora's story.

I'd also like to know more about Indigenous peoples of Alaska. Hitchcock gestures to complexities in terms used but I'm reading and re-reading those passages trying to make sense of it. Due out in 2016 from Random House, I'm marking this as not recommended.

Update, Feb 9 2016:

My social media feeds yesterday carried news about a research study comparing alcohol use across Native and White populations:

The researchers analyzed data from a survey of more than 4,000 Native Americans and 170,000 whites between 2009 and 2013. Called the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the survey was administered by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The UA study also used another nationally representative survey, the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System administered by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to measure how often Native Americans and whites engaged in excessive drinking in the past month. Again, findings for the two groups were comparable.
About 17 percent of both Native Americans and whites were found to be binge drinkers, and about 8 percent of both groups were heavy drinkers. Binge drinking was defined as five or more drinks on one to four days in the past month. Heavy drinking was five or more drinks on five or more days in the past month. Sixty percent of Native Americans reported no alcohol use in the past month, compared to 43 percent of whites.
“Of course, debunking a stereotype doesn’t mean that alcohol problems don’t exist,” Dr. Cunningham said. “All major U.S. racial and ethnic groups face problems due to alcohol abuse, and alcohol use within those groups can vary with geographic location, age and gender.
“But falsely stereotyping a group regarding alcohol can have its own unique consequences. For example, some employers might be reluctant to hire individuals from a group that has been stereotyped regarding alcohol. Patients from such a group, possibly wanting to avoid embarrassment, may be reluctant to discuss alcohol-related problems with their doctors,” he said.

I think it was being shared in Native networks because we are keenly aware of the stereotype which is, I believe, reflected in Hitchcock's story. 

Richard Van Camp and Julie Flett on winning the American Indian Library Association's 2016 Picture Book Award

I asked Richard Van Camp and Julie Flett for a response to the news that their exquisite board book, Little You, had won the 2016 Picture Book Award from the American Indian Library Association.

Richard said:
 "I've always wanted to work with Julie Flett so I'm honoured to receive this high honor with her and our team at Orca Books!"

Julie said:
It's really exciting to hear that Little You is being honored along with the other books listed. Wow, thank you, committee!"

Congratulations to both of you, Richard and Julie! 

Several books by Richard Van Camp and Julie Flett are amongst AICL's Best Books lists, so do click on over there and see what else they've done.

I hope they work together on additional books!

Before hitting the upload button for this post, I want to point readers to another huge plus for Little You. At Orca's blog, I learned that is available in South Slavey, Bush Cree, and Chipewyan: