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Preview: American Indians in Children's Literature

American Indians in Children's Literature (AICL)

Established in 2006, American Indians in Children's Literature (AICL) provides critical perspectives and analysis of indigenous peoples in children's and young adult books, the school curriculum, popular culture, and society. Scroll down for links to book

Updated: 2018-02-24T14:19:26.147-06:00


Announcing This Year's Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Recipient!


AICL readers,

Please join me (Jean) in a roar of approval for the 2018 recipient of the American Library Association (ALA) May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture award:

(drum roll please)

Debbie Reese!
Photo credit: @librarygrl

Her lecture will be delivered in 2019, at a location to be decided.

For those who don't follow ALA matters, this is Kind of A Big Deal. Naomi Shihab Nye is the current Arbuthnot honoree. Past recipient/lecturers include Jacqueline Woodson, K.T. Horning, Walter Dean Myers, Ursula K. Leguin, and Maurice Sendak.

The announcement came today during the ALA annual midwinter meeting in Denver.

Wish I'd had the presence of mind to make a screen shot of the slide they showed during the announcement, but i was too busy screaming joyfully along with a lot of other people. (At 3:31 PM on Feb. 12, the above image was added.)

Click here to find out more about the award, and hear some past lectures.

Winners of 2018 American Indian Library Association's Youth Literature Award!


Every two years, the American Indian Library Association's Youth Literature Award committee selects books to receive its awards in three categories: Picture Book, Middle Grade Book, and Young Adult Book. From books published in 2016 and 2017, these are the winners! An important note: every single one is from a small press--where editors know what they're doing. In 2016 and 2017, "the Big Five" published a lot of books that purport to be about Native peoples, but they are not written by Native people. In one explicit or subtle way or another, they fail to provide Native children with mirrors. Books presented here, however, are exquisite. I highly recommend you get them for your classroom, school, or home library. Some of the books are ones where several people were involved. Look up each name! Get to know what they do! Visit the websites of these publishers! Promote and share their work, wherever you see it.Here they are, in one image. Twelve books, but the creative work of almost 100 different Native people! ~~~~Best Picture Book is Shanyaak'utlaax: Salmon Boy (2017), published by the Sealaska Heritage Institute. The book is edited by Tlingit speakers Johnny Marks, Hans Chester, David Katzeek, and Nora Dauenhauer and Tlingit linguist Richard Dauenhauer and illustrated by Michaela Goade. (Please see "A Watery World" -- an interview of illustrator, Goade.)Picture Book Honors went to:Black Bear Red Fox (2017), written and illustrated by Julie Flett (Cree/Métis). Native Northwest.I'm Dreaming of...Animals of the Native Northwest (2017), written by Melaney Gleeson-Lyall (Musqueam, Coast Salish) and illustrated by First Nations artists. Native Northwest.All Around Us (2017), written by Xelena González (Tap Pilam Coahuiltecan Nation) and illustrated by Adriana M. Garcia. Cinco Puntos Press.Mission to Space (2016), written and illustrated by John Herrington (Chickasaw). White Dog Press.Fall in Line, Holden! (2017), written and illustrated by Daniel W. Vandever (Diné). Salina Bookshelf, Inc.Best Middle Grade book is Tales of the Mighty Code Talkers, Volume 1 (2016), published by Native Realities, edited by Arigon Starr (Kickapoo) and featuring the work of Theo Tso (Las Vegas Paiute), Jonathan Nelson (Diné), Kristina Bad Hand (Sičháŋǧu Lakota/Cherokee), Roy Boney Jr. (Cherokee), Lee Francis IV (Laguna Pueblo), Johnnie Diacon (Mvskoke/Creek), Weshoyot Alvitre (Tongva), Renee Nejo (Mesa Grand Band of Mission Indians), and Michael Sheyahshe (Caddo).Middle Grade Honor Book is The Wool of Jonesy, Part 1 (2016) written and illustrated by Jonathan Nelson (Diné). Native Realities.Best Young Adult Book is #Not Your Princess: Voices of Native American Women (2017), published by Annick Press, edited by Lisa Charleyboy (Tsilhqot’in) and Mary Beth Leatherdale. Art, poems, stories, and photographs by Aza Erdrich Abe (Turtle Mountain Ojibwe), Claire Anderson (Taku River Tlingit), Joanne Arnott (Métis/mixed blood), Monique Bedard Aura Last (Haudenosaunee Oneida), Gwen Benaway (Anishinaabe and Métis), Nathalie Bertin (Franco-Métis), Stephanie Big Crow (Tsuu T'ina Nation), Maria Campbell (Métis), Tenille Campbell (Dene/Métis), Imajyn Cardinal (Cree/Dene), Adrianne Chalepah (Kiowa/Apache), Lianne Marie Leda Charlie (descendant of the Tagé Cho Hudan, Northern Tutchone-speaking people of the Yukon), Chief Lady Bird - Nancy King (Potawatomi and Chippewa from Rama First Nation with paternal ties to Moose Deer Point), Dana Claxton (Hunkpapa Lakota), Clear Wind Blows Over the Moon (Cree First Nations), Francine Cunningham (Cree/Métis), Danielle Daniel (Métis), Jessica Deer (Mohawk), Rosanna Deerchild (Cree), Sierra Edd (Diné), Kelly Edzerza-Bapty (Tahltan Nation of Telegraph Creek), Ka'ila Farrell-Smith (Klamath/Modoc), Melanie Fey (Dine), Isabella Fillspipe (Oglala Lakota), Julie Flett (Cree/Métis), Nahanni Fontaine (Anishinaabe), Karlene Harvey (Tsilhqot'in, Carrier, and Okanagan nations), Hazel H[...]

Not Recommended: Keira Drake's THE CONTINENT (the 2018 revision)


You may recall that, back in 2016, there was a lot of pushback to Keira Drake's The Continent. I recommend you read Zoraida Córdova's critique on November 7, 2016, at YA Interrobang. It is excellent. In response to the intense conversations on social media, Drake and her publisher, Harlequin Teen (a division of HarperCollins), decided to postpone the release of The Continent to give Drake an opportunity to revise it. I wonder if their decision is based on a multi-book contract? The Continent is the first book in a series she is going to write. It is "Book 1" in the series, and will be released on March 27, 2018. ~~~~In their announcement on November 7, 2016 (posted to their Tumblr page), Harlequin Teen said:Over the last few days, there has been online discussion about racial stereotypes in connection with one of our upcoming 2017 titles, The Continent by Keira Drake. As the publisher, we take the concerns that have been voiced seriously. We are deeply sorry to have caused offense, as this was never our or the author's intention. We have listened to the criticism and feedback and are working with the author to address the issues that have been raised. We fully support Keira as a talented author. To ensure that the themes in her book are communicated in the way she planned, we will be moving the publication date. - HarlequinTeenI wrote about the 2016 ARC (advance review copy) on January 31, 2017. Over the last couple of weeks, I've read the 2018 ARC. My conclusion? Drake's revisions are superficial. The Continent is not better now than it was in 2016. ~~~~If you haven't read the book, here is what you need to know to make sense of my review:The main character is a teen named Vaela Sun who lives on a land mass called the Spire. In their heli-planes, people of the Spire like to fly over a land mass they call the Continent, to see the battle there between two nations of people. It reminds them how far they've come. Vaela and her parents are on the tour with Mr. and Mrs. Shaw and their son, Aaden. When their heli-plane crashes on the Continent, Vaela is captured by the Xoe and rescued by Nomo, who is of the Aven'ei nation. Let's start with changes to the books description. The first and last paragraphs are unchanged. The middle paragraph has some changes. The word "uncivilized" is gone from the 2018 description. The significant change, however, as shown here in the highlighted text from the middle paragraph, is about who Vaela is:2016:For Vaela--a talented apprentice cartographer--the journey is a dream come true: a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to improve upon the maps she's drawn of this vast, frozen land. 2018:For Vaela, the war holds little interest. As a talented apprentice cartographer and a descendant of the Continent herself, she sees the journey as a dream come true: a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to improve upon the maps she’s drawn of this vast, frozen land.In the revision, Drake has made Vaela a descendent of one of the nations on the Continent. That information is presented on page 18:“Did you know, my mother says, addressing the Shaws, “that Vaela and I are of Aven’ei descent?” Aaden looks back and forth between the two of us. “Are you quite sure?” he says. “Many claim as much, but its rarely true.” She smiles. “We can trace it all the way back to one of my ancestors, a Miss Delia Waters. She was a cultural attaché for the East—an illustrious position, all told—and spent a great deal of time on the Continent, back in that all-too-short bit of time when we had contact with those living overseas. Anyhow, we haven’t all the details, but we know she married an Aven’ei by the name of Qia who died soon after their wedding. She returned to the Spire, kept her given name, and gave birth to a baby boy—Roderick—a man of considerable accomplishment, so the story goes.” At her website, Drake said that she is Sicilian, Na[...]

BIG NEWS: A possible change in name of ALA's Laura Ingalls Wilder Award!


Editors note: If you are not attending ALA's Midwinter Conference, you can submit a comment directly to ALSC regarding the proposed change to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award name at the ALSC blog. If you are attending, you can go to the meeting on Saturday (Feb 10). I welcome your comments here, as well, but urge you to submit comments directly to ALSC. ______________Earlier today, there was some big news!Way back in 1954, the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) established the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award. It is given annually to an author or illustrator in the US whose books have made a "substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children."On Saturday, Feb 10 at the American Library Association's 2018 Midwinter Conference, ALSC will begin a discussion about changing the name of the award.As I look at the logo for the conference, the line "The conversation starts here..." takes on new meaning!In Nina Lindsay's (she is current president of ALSC) memo about the discussion, she included information that brought ALSC to this point. Here's some lines from her memo:Today, this award elevates a legacy that is not consistent with values of diversity and inclusion--something we did not fully understand as a profession when we created the award.A member wrote to me: “the Wilder is a monument that says something about our profession's history, but every year it is given out it also says something about our present.” My work has shown me that critical reflection on Wilder and her books is--for some people--uncomfortable. It is hard to look carefully--and acknowledge--that Wilder's depictions of African Americans and Native people, are flawed and racist.Some will argue that at the time she wrote the books, things like blackface and stereotyping weren't seen as wrong. But, of course, African Americans and Native peoples knew them to be wrong. Here's some examples from the books:In Little House in the Big Woods (1932), Pa tells Laura and Mary about his childhood in New York, where he'd pretend he was "a mighty hunger, stalking the wild animals and the Indians" (p. 53).In Farmer Boy (1933), Almanzo and and Alice play "wild Indian" (p. 277).In Little House on the Prairie (1935), the phrase "the only good Indian is a dead Indian" appears three times. I've written a lot about that book. The memo about the change points to one of my articles. They are depicted in menacing ways:In On the Banks of Plum Creek (1937), Mary tells Laura to put on her sunbonnet because if she doesn't "You'll be brown as an Indian, and what will the town girls think of us?" (p. 143).In By the Shores of Silver Creek (1939), Ma recalls her fear of being scalped by "the savages" who had come into their house on the prairie (p. 100).In The Long Winter (1940) when Pa mentions an Indian who told him that "heap bad snow come" (p. 61), Ma asks him what Indian, and she "looked as if she were smelling the smell of an Indian" (p. 64).In Little Town on the Prairie (1941), Pa does blackface.  The newly released Kindle copies of the series changed the illustrations from black and white into color:In These Happy Golden Years (1943), Uncle Tom tells about when he was on his way to the Black Hills, looking for gold, and had to go into a "strange depression" that, a prospector told him, the Indians called "the Bad Lands." The depression is a "heathenish" place with skulls and bones. Of it, Tom says "I think that when God made he world He threw all the leftover waste into that hole" (p. 106). When Laura and Almanzo are leaving, Grace runs out with Laura's sunbonnet, saying "Remember, Laura, Ma says if you don't keep your sunbonnet on, you'll be brown as an Indian!" (p. 284).I was--and am--deeply moved by this news from ALSC! Here's their immediate plan:In order to further move forward with a deliberate and open examination of our awards program, we suggest, at minimum, both of the following:  1. Establish a task force to explore the AL[...]

Recommended: How Devil’s Club Came to Be


By Miranda Rose Kaagweil Worl (Tlingit) Illustrated by Michaela Goade (Tlingit)2017, Sealaska Heritage InstituteBaby Raven Reads Education ProgramLibrary bookshelves virtually overflow with “retellings” of Native American traditional tales “adapted” (stolen) by non-Native writers who then profit from something that’s intrinsically Muscogee, Lakota, Tsimshian -- something that’s not theirs to share.  You may know that’s an abuse of tribal intellectual property, and that many Native nations now safeguard their traditional stories so that they (or many of them) can’t be shared with the general public. After so many of these stories were collected and disseminated without permission by non-Natives, keepers of the cultures created policies to stop the theft. Some stories are not to be shared, even among people of the nation that holds them, except in special circumstances.So the following words caught my eye in the front matter of How Devil’s Club Came to Be: “This is an original story by Miranda Rose Kaagweil Worl. Though inspired by ancient oral traditions that have been handed down through the generations, it is not a traditional Tlingit story.”Info in the back matter tells us that both the author and illustrator are Tlingit. It also tells us their clans and Tlingit names. So it seems likely that they will not be misrepresenting Tlingit traditions in How Devil’s Club Came to Be. (We also see that Worl wrote this story when she was in high school.) That statement, “This is an original story” and the detailed author/illustrator information may be part of the reason the Library of Congress designated Devil’s Club a “best practice honoree” in 2017. Readers can feel assured that the book’s Tlingit creators are NOT sharing a sacred or protected part of their culture. The story starts with a sickness in Raven’s village. The shaman they look to for healing is nowhere to be found. Raven discovers that a terrible giant with a spiked club is kidnapping shamans. He tells his people that he’ll stop the giant – but then falls ill himself. He tells his niece that she must take over for him.Raven’s Niece does her best to defeat the giant, but her plan fails. To escape, she jumps off a cliff – and finds herself among the Thunderbird people. Like her people, they are ill and missing their shaman. Their leader says they will help her. He drapes his Chilkat robe around her shoulders. The robe turns her into a Thunderbird. She finds the giant, shreds his deadly club, and drops him into the ocean. She then becomes ill, but the voice of the Thunderbird clan leader directs her back to where she destroyed the club. There she finds an unfamiliar, spiky plant. She chews the inner bark and feels strong enough to get back home. She shares the medicine with her people, and they are cured. The plant (called S’axt in Tlingit and devil’s club in English), still “helps heal and protect us.” Often I’m of two minds when authors create original stories based in oral traditions of their cultures. It was a bit disorienting to learn, as a child, that “The Ugly Duckling” and “Princess and the Pea” came from Hans Christian Anderson, and not from old Europe! But original stories that feel old can be engaging and worthwhile in their own right. How Devil’s Club Came to Be, with its uncomplicated plot and Miranda Worl's straightforward prose, has plenty of drama without seeming overwrought. It's easy to read aloud. Here's a sample:The voice of the Thunderbird clan leader boomed in her head. She spread her arms outward, but they were no longer arms. They were the wings of a giant bird -- they were the wings of a Thunderbird.Micheala Goade’s illustrations make dramatic use of color and line. Goade works in water color and India ink, then adds some digital elements. The end papers feature a misty green forest with black line drawings of large-leafed plants in the foreground – for[...]

The Cover for Traci Sorell's WE ARE GRATEFUL: OTSALIHELIGA


On January 18, All the Wonders did the cover reveal for Traci Sorell's We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga.

People who think of Indigenous peoples as "vanished" or no longer "real Indians" if we aren't walking around in feathers and beads may not know just how wrong they are! That idea is silly! Of course we're still here--and let's be real: those stereotypical ideas are harmful to everyone.

We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga, written by Traci Sorell and illustrated by Frané Lessac will be out in September, from Charlesbridge. Head over to All the Wonders to read the author and illustrator interviews, and... order the book! 

Allie Jane Bruce's review of LAURA INGALLS IS RUINING MY LIFE


Eds. note: AICL is pleased to publish Allie Jane Bruce's review of Laura Ingalls Is Ruining My Life, by Shelley Tougas. It was published in 2017 by Roaring Book Press (Macmillan). To read the introduction to this review, go to Allie's post at Reading While White.Here's a description of the book (from the Macmillan website):A life on the prairie is not all its cracked up to be for one girl whose mom takes her love of the Little House series just a bit too far.Charlotte’s mom has just moved the family across the country to live in Walnut Grove, “childhood home of pioneer author Laura Ingalls Wilder.” Mom’s idea is that the spirit of Laura Ingalls will help her write a bestselling book. But Charlotte knows better: Walnut Grove is just another town where Mom can avoid responsibility. And this place is worse than everywhere else the family has lived—it’s freezing in the winter, it’s small with nothing to do, and the people talk about Laura Ingalls all the time. Charlotte’s convinced her family will not be able to make a life on the prairie—until the spirit of Laura Ingalls starts getting to her, too.****Laura Ingalls Is Ruining My Life, by Shelley Tougas.  Roaring Brook Press.  Reviewed by Allie Jane Bruce.NB - I read, and used page numbers from, a galley of this book.At the outset of Laura Ingalls Is Ruining My Life, twelve-year-old Charlotte makes it clear that she finds her mom’s obsession with Laura Ingalls irritating. Any time Mom or Rose (Charlotte’s younger sister) reference the Little House books or Laura Ingalls, Charlotte’s reaction is somewhere in the ballpark of “Seriously?” or “Ugh.” On page 8, Charlotte thinks:Realistically, I was stuck with Laura for a year. I had to deal with her the way you deal with an upset stomach. You wait it out. Eventually you puke and feel better. On their move from Lexington, Kentucky to Walnut Grove, Minnesota, Mom decides they must stop and eat at a diner they see, called "Prairie Diner". When Mom starts to engage a waitress on the subject, Charlotte thinks (p. 9): I needed to shut this down before Mom launched her crazy spirit-of-Laura explanation. It is important to note, however, that Charlotte’s negative reactions have nothing to do with any inkling that the books, or Laura herself, are racist or problematic. Charlotte is irritated because she is a snarky, often pessimistic character, and the idea of Laura’s spirit calling out to Mom’s creative soul rubs her the wrong way.On page 34, in her new classroom, Charlotte notices (p. 34): There were twenty-four students in our new class, including Julia [their landlady’s granddaughter], Freddy [her twin brother], and me. Six were Asian. Julia was the only Hispanic student, as far as I could tell. Everyone else was white. I wondered, upon reading this, whether all those White kids were actually White, or whether Charlotte might be misidentifying someone; many people present, or pass for, White but in fact identify as Native, Latinx, or multiracial. I wondered more about this on page 36, as the kids are being given an assignment. Mrs. Newman (her teacher) says:“You will write about how Laura Ingalls and her story have influenced our community and affected your life. [...] You don’t have to be a fan. I know there are students who haven’t read the books, which saddens me greatly, but if you live here, there’s no getting around Laura’s influence. Even if you haven’t read the books, which truly saddens me, you are aware of how she’s shaped our town, and if you’re not aware, that is heartbreaking.” I tried to imagine myself as a Native kid reading this passage, or to take it a step further, as a White-presenting Native kid in Charlotte’s class. How would this talk about not reading the books, and not being aware of how Laura Ingalls shaped their town, as “saddening” and “heartb[...]

The Exquisite Book Cover for Rebecca Roanhorse's TRAIL OF LIGHTNING


Books by Native writers have given me moments where a phrase so perfectly reflects my experience, that I exclaim aloud, with joy, 'YES!' Illustrations can do that, too, and once in a great while, a book cover will have that effect.Last week, Barnes and Noble did the cover reveal for Rebecca Roanhorse's Trail of Lightning. Rebecca is Ohkay Owingeh (the tribal nation my mom is from) and African American. When I saw the cover, my heart swelled. I wanted everyone in my Native networks to see it! The art is by Tommy Arnold.So, I shared it widely and others did, too. It had the same kind of impact on Native people. Tiffany Midge, for example, said she wanted to make it into a poster. Tiffany is Hunkpapa Lakota. She's a writer, too. Look for her in #NotYourPrincess. Pernell Thomas is Navajo. On Twitter, he said:This! This! This! Seeing a powerful Diné woman on the cover of a book like this is so inspirational and life changing. I can't help but think how many young Diné children will be empowered by this imagery. The ké ntsaaí!!! ahxé'hééTrail of Lightning isn't a book for kids but I have no doubt that they'll see teens and parents reading it. And feel empowered. Some of you may be wondering why we're having this reaction. We all probably see the power that the lightning imparts, but some of us saw Maggie's mocs. Some of us saw the truck we (or someone in our family) drives on the reservation. But there are things that are not there that make the cover powerful in other ways.Book covers that have Native women on them are usually books that are set in the past. They're written by people who aren't Native and profess to love Native people, but that ultimately don't understand the distinctions that exist amongst the hundreds of Native Nations in the U.S. and Canada. The default illustration of a Native woman, then, includes feathers, braids, fringed clothing, and a tipi, horse, and maybe a buffalo. All of that is possible for one nation--but certainly not for all of us.In other words, Maggie is so empowering to us because she's real. She is not a stereotype. The cover is exquisite because it speaks to us as people of the present day, and as readers who want to see our selves reflected on book covers. In 2019, Native children will be able to buy Rebecca's Race to the Sun. It will be published in the Rick Riordan Presents series. Its main character is a seventh grade Navajo girl named Nizhoni Begay.Trail of Lightning will be available on June 26, 2018. Pre-order it! It is being published by Saga Press, which is an imprint of Simon and Schuster. In the meantime, read the Q&A at Barnes and Noble, and follow Rebecca on Twitter.The phrase, "I can't wait" is a cliché that many of us on Native social media are uttering. It doesn't do justice, though, to the emotion this cover generates. I'll close with the word 'yes' -- in Tewa (my language). That feels right.Hąą! [...]

Debbie--have you seen R IS FOR REBEL by J. Anderson Coats?


A reader wrote to ask if I've seen R Is For Rebel by J. Anderson Coats. It'll be out on February 20 from Atheneum (Simon and Schuster). Here's the description:
Princess Academy meets Megan Whalen Turner in this stunning novel about a girl who won’t let anything tame her spirit—not the government that conquered her people, and definitely not reform school! 
Malley has led the constables on a merry chase across her once-peaceful country. With her parents in prison for their part in a failed resistance movement, the government wants to send her to a national school—but they’ll have to capture her first. 
And capture her they do. Malley is carted off be reformed as a proper subject of the conquering empire, reeducated, and made suitable for domestic service. That’s the government’s plan, anyway. 
But Malley will not go down without a fight. She’s determined to rally her fellow students to form a rebellion of their own. The government can lock these girls up in reform school. Whether it can break them is another matter entirely…

Woah. Lot of phrases in there that make me cringe. Like "tame her." Most people will read that and think someone is trying to stifle a girl's spirit, but when you read the next few words "the government that conquered her people" -- it is clear that we're in a very slippery space.

And Malley leads the constables "on a merry chase across her once-peaceful country"??? Native children being chased by government officials was not merry.

I am highly doubtful that Coats is going to pull this off--at least for any of us who know what the boarding schools were like. If I get a copy, I'll be back with a review.

Not Recommended: LOVING VS VIRGINIA by Patricia Hruby Powell


Eds. note: The wrong draft of my review of Powell's book was inadvertently published on Jan 10, 2018. It is being deleted in its entirety. The final draft is being closely scrutinized before publication. 

I extend my deepest apologies to Powell for the error. 


Update, Feb 6, 2017

Please see Arica Coleman's review of Loving Vs. Virginia. I agree with the points she made, and concur with her conclusion.

I have additional thoughts, some of which you can read at School Library Journal's Heavy Medal discussion of the book. Those additional thoughts are specific to Mildred Jeter Loving's identity.

I understand that the author views Loving Vs Virginia primarily as a love story. Some think that because of that focus, other concerns are irrelevant.

I disagree. Mrs. Loving was adamant about her identity, especially in her later years. That information was something that the author had access to; it was not unknown or hard to know. In fact, she cites Coleman's book, which is precisely about Mrs. Lovings identity.

My apologies above (in italics) have nothing to do with the conclusions in the review. An error in the presentation of the review's contents is why I removed it. The final draft is still in process. 

Robot lifting skirt of Black child will not appear in future printings of THE ULTIMATE BOOK OF SPACE


Back in December of 2017, a mother saw The Ultimate Book of Space and bought it as a Christmas gift for her daughter. When she was home she looked through it and noticed this image on the dedication page:

Why, she asked (on social media), is that robot lifting the little girl's dress? She noted that the girl is Black and she correctly characterized the image as one that illustrates sexual harassment. Others began to talk about the image, too. One is the illustrator, who said that the robot is being driven by the girl's sibling, shown on the facing page. He characterized it as kids of all ethnicities playing peacefully together, but others rebutted him. It doesn't matter who is driving the robot. Its actions are inappropriate.

On January 5, I learned about the illustration. The Ultimate Book of Space is by Anne-Sophie Baumann, illustrated by Olivier Latyk, and translated by Robb Booker. It was published in 2016 by Twirl Books, an imprint of Chronicle Books.

I posted the image on Twitter and tagged Chronicle Books. Today (January 9), Chronicle responded, saying
Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We appreciate your concern and we agree. We have contacted Twirl, the publisher of this series, and this image will be removed from all future reprints. You can email to receive a sticker with replacement art.
Here's a screen capture of the tweet:

The mother (who works in technology), made some powerful observations. In particular she noted that the little girl was engaged in a construction project. Her work on this project is being interrupted by that robot...

One news story after another, she noted, talks about women being interrupted, at work, by men who think such actions are fine. 

What message, she asked, does that image send?

I'm glad Chronicle made the decision to remove the illustration. With it, Chronicle acknowledges the problem with the image, and their respect for parents--like this mom--who spoke up for her daughter and the images children see in their books.

I'm grateful to this mom for speaking up and encourage others to do so, too!

Not recommended: KILL ALL HAPPIES by Rachel Cohn


Kill All Happies by Rachel Cohn came out in 2017 from Disney Hyperion.Here's the description (the highlighting near the end is mine):Last Call at Happies! Tonight, 8 P.M. Senior Class Only! Please with the Shhhh…. This is it. Graduation. And Vic Navarro is throwing the most epic party Rancho Soldado has ever seen. She's going to pull off the most memorable good-bye ever for her best friends, give Happies—the kitschy restaurant that is her desert town's claim to fame—a proper send-off into bankruptcy, and oh yes, hook up with her delicious crush, Jake Zavala-Kim. She only needs to keep the whole thing a secret so that her archnemesis, Miss Ann Thrope, Rancho Soldado's nightmare Town Councilwoman and high school Economics teacher, doesn't get Vic tossed in jail. With the music thumping, alcohol flowing, bodies mashing, and Thrope nowhere to be seen, Vic's party is a raging success. That is, until Happies fans start arriving in droves to say good-bye, and storm the deserted theme park behind the restaurant. Suddenly what was a small graduation bash is more like Coachella on steroids with a side of RASmatazz pie. The night is so not going as planned. And maybe that's the best plan of all.Most people read "Coachella" and think it is a cool music festival they want to go to someday (if they haven't been already), but a whole lot of Native people cringe when they hear that word. Why? Appropriation. This is from 2014, when you could rent one of those tipis for $2200:If you go to the website and look at the "Lake Eldorado" pages, you'll see the organizers have expanded the appropriation in even more garish ways. Obviously, these tipis invites attendees to don feathered headdresses.I don't know who wrote the description for Cohn's book, but my reading of Kill All Happies felt very much like my reading of articles about Coachella. By that I mean it is shallow and reeks of Whiteness.So... Vic. Vic Navarro is throwing a party.When she's planning this big bash, Bev (she's the owner of Happies, where the party will be) tells her not to let anyone go into the theme park behind Happies. The ghosts, Bev says, will curse her if she lets anyone in (p. 43):I'm hella scared of ghosts, just like everyone in our town. Rancho Solado was built on the original graveside of a battalion of United States Army gringos, who were killed in a minor but vicious battle during the Mexican-American War. The soldiers' campsite was ambushed by Native Americans, in cahoots with the Mexican Army, and their ghosts have been haunting the town that sprung up over their remains ever since, so we knew from paranormal activity.We know where Vic's sentiments lie, don't we? Those poor US Army soldiers, "ambushed" by Native Americans and Mexicans. What's with that "original" remark? You know who that land originally belonged to, right?But wait! Vic has her "Native American grandfather's dark brown hair" (p. 123):Now I wonder: why did Rachel Cohn gave Vic that identity? It strikes me as worse than decorative. Do you see why I said this feels like Coachella?Thankfully, reviewers at the mainstream journals didn't think much of Kill All Happies. It didn't get any starred reviews. But--it is by Cohn, who wrote Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, which will draw some readers. It didn't fare all that well at Goodreads either. Dare we hope that it'll go out of print soon? Well--I hope so.Need I say that Kill All Happies, by Rachel Cohn, gets a NOT RECOMMENDED rating?[...]



The Many Reflections of Miss Jane Deming by J. Anderson Coats came out in 2017 from Simon and Schuster. Here's the description, from the publisher's website:High-spirited young Jane is excited to be part of Mr. Mercer’s plan to bring Civil War widows and orphans to Washington Territory—but life out west isn’t at all what she expected.Washington Territory is just the place for men of broad mind and sturdy constitution—and girls too, Jane figures, or Mr. Mercer wouldn’t have allowed her to come on his expedition to bring unmarried girls and Civil War widows out west.Jane’s constitution is sturdy enough. She’s been taking care of her baby brother ever since Papa was killed in the war and her young stepmother had to start working long days at the mill. The problem, she fears, is her mind. It might not be suitably broad because she had to leave school to take care of little Jer. Still, a new life awaits in Washington Territory, and Jane plans to make the best of it.Except Seattle doesn’t turn out to be quite as advertised. In this rough-and-tumble frontier town, Jane is going to need every bit of that broad mind and sturdy constitution—not to mention a good sense of humor and a stubborn streak a mile wide.Quite often books set in the past that ought to have Native characters have none at all, as if Native people did not exist. Sometimes an author includes Native characters but depicts them in ways that affirm existing stereotypes.Sometimes an author includes them in order to serve the needs of the main character--who is White. That's what happens in The Many Reflections of Miss Jane Deming.  Jane dreams of going to school, but as the story unfolds, that doesn't work out until she meets the Norley's.****This story is about Jane, a 12-year-old girl who moves to Seattle in 1865 with her stepmother (Jane's father was killed in the Civil War) and her little brother (he's two). They'd learned about the opportunity to go to Seattle by way of a pamphlet that Jane refers to several times in the story. She's one of a large group who sets out from New York aboard a ship called the Continental. When they get to Washington Territory, Jane is surprised to see Indians. Another girl in the group, Flora, tells her (p. 95-96):"Indians live around Seattle, lots of them, even though they're supposed to be on reservations. That's what the big treaty was about. But on the reservations there's nothing for them to do, and they go hungry. There's more than enough work to go around in Seattle for white people and Indians both. Not everyone is happy about it, but that's the way it is."The treaty Flora is likely referring to is the Treaty of Port Elliott, signed by Chief Seeattl (commonly referred to as Chief Seattle) in 1855. Later in The Many Reflections of Miss Jane Deming, Coats found a way to provide readers with a good chunk of information about languages Indigenous people speak (see below). I think that sort of thing was necessary here, too. What reservation in Flora talking about? Why was "the big treaty" and why was it necessary? Why is there nothing for the Indians to do on that reservation?When Jane gets to Seattle, she sees (p. 138),There are Indians everywhere in town. They paddle around in their canoes and sell things like fish and berries and work in the mill and sometimes go to church. Later, Jean is with Mr. W (he's the man her stepmother marries) to get supplies. He pauses and speaks to an Indian woman is sitting on a blanket next to some things she's got for sale (p 158):"Ik-tah kunsih?" Mr. W kneels and points to a tidy pile of bright blankets, the kind that were on the beds at the Occidental Hotel. Jane is surprised to hear Mr. W "speaking Indian" (p. 158) to the [...]

Debbie--have you seen THE AGONY OF BUN O'KEEFE by Heather Smith?


A reader wrote to ask if I've seen The Agony of Bun O'Keefe by Heather Smith. Published in 2017 by Penguin Teen; here's the description:
It's Newfoundland, 1986. Fourteen-year-old Bun O'Keefe has lived a solitary life in an unsafe, unsanitary house. Her mother is a compulsive hoarder, and Bun has had little contact with the outside world. What she's learned about life comes from the random books and old VHS tapes that she finds in the boxes and bags her mother brings home. Bun and her mother rarely talk, so when Bun's mother tells Bun to leave one day, she does. Hitchhiking out of town, Bun ends up on the streets of St. John's, Newfoundland. Fortunately, the first person she meets is Busker Boy, a street musician who senses her naivety and takes her in. Together they live in a house with an eclectic cast of characters: Chef, a hotel dishwasher with culinary dreams; Cher, a drag queen with a tragic past; Big Eyes, a Catholic school girl desperately trying to reinvent herself; and The Landlord, a man who Bun is told to avoid at all cost. Through her experiences with her new roommates, and their sometimes tragic revelations, Bun learns that the world extends beyond the walls of her mother's house and discovers the joy of being part of a new family -- a family of friends who care.
Busker Boy is Native, and apparently, there is a lot of Native content. At one point, someone calls Busker Boy a "drunken Indian" and Bun tries to intervene. There's also something about the actor who played the part of Tonto. I'll pick up a copy at the library and be back with a review.

Debbie--have you seen Olivia A. Cole's A CONSPIRACY OF STARS?


I've received questions from a few people, asking if I've seen Olivia A. Cole's young adult novel, A Conspiracy of Stars. It was released on January 2, 2018, from Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins).

Here's the description:

Octavia has always dreamed of becoming a whitecoat, one of the prestigious N’Terra scientists who study the natural wonders of Faloiv. So when the once-secretive labs are suddenly opened to students, she leaps at the chance to see what happens behind their closed doors.
However, she quickly discovers that all is not what it seems on Faloiv, and the experiments the whitecoats have been doing run the risk of upsetting the humans’ fragile peace with the Faloii, Faloiv’s indigenous people.
As secret after disturbing secret comes to light, Octavia finds herself on a collision course with the charismatic and extremist new leader of N’Terra’s ruling council. But by uncovering the mysteries behind the history she’s been taught, the science she’s lived by, and the truth about her family, she threatens to be the catalyst for an all-out war.

The description, and reviews I read at Barnes and Noble's website, make me uneasy. I have ordered a copy of the book.

Arica L. Coleman's review of Patricia Hruby Powell's LOVING VS. VIRGINIA - Not recommended


Loving Vs. Virginia: A Documentary Novel of the Landmark Civil Rights Case (Advanced Copy) By Patricia Hruby Powell; illustrated by Shadra Strickland Publisher: Chronicle Books, 2017 Reviewed by Arica L. Coleman, Ph.D. Not RecommendedOpeningPatricia Hruby Powell has written a young adult documentary novel to commemorate the 50th anniversary of this landmark Supreme Courtdecision in which the nine justices unanimously overturned anti-miscegenation laws (state proscriptions against interracial marriage) declaring such laws unconstitutional. I learned of Powell’s book a couple of months prior to its release while conducting a Google search. I reached out to the author in a comment on her blog which featured the book's cover, stating "I cannot wait to read your book. Here is a link to my work on the Lovings. There are additional links to other articles and my book!" Powell responded, stating, "you know I've read your chapter," meaning the chapter on Loving in my book That the Blood Stay Pure and she graciously sent me an advanced copy stating in an email: “I look forward to your reading my book as well. And how I addressed the issue of Sydney Jeter.”  The book received excellent advanced reviews on Goodreads and has since been highly recommended by School Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, and many other reputable experts of young adult literature. My review, however, will focus on the book’s merit as a historical text. While the conceptualization and execution of the work is noteworthy, its title claim as a documentary novel, I believe, is oversold, given Powell's penchant to ignore historical facts and her inability to place the work within its proper context of interracial marriage in the U.S. The essay is structured using the hackneyed phrase “the good, the bad, and the ugly.” First. . .The GoodPowell’s documentary novel is an attractive oversized book with the author’s first person poetic prose set in large easy-to-read print. Much of the book has been typeset with the traditional black letters attractively spaced on white pages. Yet, interspersed throughout the book are black and white photos, and black pages with white lettering to emphasize major historical events that add to the beauty of this work. The illustrations of renowned picture book artist Shadra Strickland adds value to this aesthetically pleasing product. The book is well organized with a focus on the years 1955-1968. Those familiar with southern culture can easily imagine themselves at a gathering on the Loving’s front porch in rural Central Point, Virginia listening to the victorious plaintiffs take turns recounting the pains and triumphs against racialized state imposed marriage sanctions. The book’s structure is reminiscent of James McBride’s classic work The Color of Water.[1]Screen captures of the narrative structureIn Loving Vs. Virginia, the narrative fluctuates beginning with Mildred, then Richard, then Mildred again. This pattern repeats, until the confluence of their narratives joins at the point of their marriage in Washington D.C., where it is spread out over several pages and then resumes the earlier pattern for the remainder of the book. Powell’s splendid writing style shines through in this work. The prose is lyrical with a flow and pace that makes the reader glide from one page to the next.  The BadFirst, the salient problem with Powell’s book is that she characterizes the work as a “documentary novel.” In her blog post, "Documentary Novel vs Historical Fiction," writer Susan Santiago describes three definitions for[...]

"Circle the wagons" will come out of next printings of Robin Benway's FAR FROM THE TREE


Robin Benaway's Far from the Tree, published in 2017 by HarperTeen/HarperCollins, won the 2017 National Book Award for Young People's Literature. The story itself, as the description shows, has nothing to do with Native people:Being the middle child has its ups and downs.But for Grace, an only child who was adopted at birth, discovering that she is a middle child is a different ride altogether. After putting her own baby up for adoption, she goes looking for her biological family, including—Maya, her loudmouthed younger bio sister, who has a lot to say about their newfound family ties. Having grown up the snarky brunette in a house full of chipper redheads, she’s quick to search for traces of herself among these not-quite-strangers. And when her adopted family’s long-buried problems begin to explode to the surface, Maya can’t help but wonder where exactly it is that she belongs. And Joaquin, their stoic older bio brother, who has no interest in bonding over their shared biological mother. After seventeen years in the foster care system, he’s learned that there are no heroes, and secrets and fears are best kept close to the vest, where they can’t hurt anyone but him.Don't miss this moving novel that addresses such important topics as adoption, teen pregnancy, and foster care.Yesterday (Dec 19, 2017) I was tagged (in Twitter), by @bookishadvocate* about a phrase in the book. Benway was tagged, too. Here's the tweet:Pg 263 in this NBA winner contains the microaggressive phrase "circle the wagons." @RobinBenway & @harperteen need to remove it in future publications. If they're already addressing this, great! If not, fix it please. Great story, but that phrase...yikes. @debreese - read it yet?*With permission, I'm adding this note: Bookishadvocate is Emily Patterson Visness, a middle grade teacher. She blogs at The Bookish Advocate.Shortly after that tweet went out, Benway responded (text on left; screen cap of tweet on right):"Thank you so much for bringing this to my attention. I just looked up the phrase and had absolutely no idea of its racist origins. I apologize for the offense and will talk to Harper tomorrow about removing it from future printings. Again, thank you for letting me know."Then--today (Dec 20, 2017), Benway tweeted again, responding to @bookishadvocate, saying:Thank you so much for sharing it with your students! I just spoke with Harper and the phrase is being removed from future printings. I haven't read Far from the Tree but because I keep track of revisions like this, I did this quick post about it. If you are an author who makes a similar change, even if the content is not specific to Native peoples, let me know!_____Update: AICL maintains a page of phrases like this one, with information on their history that explain why they are ones you might want to stop using.[...]



Recommended: Wild Eggs: A Tale of Arctic Egg Collectingby Suzie Napayok-Short (Inuk). illustrated by Jonathan WrightPublisher: Inhabit Media, 2015Review by Jean MendozaWild Eggs: A Tale of Arctic Egg Collecting opens with a little girl stepping off a bush plane, holding a stuffed polar bear. Akuluk and her mother have come from Yellowknife to a remote part of Nunavut. She is about to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. She’s apprehensive, and thinks she'd rather visit her cousin in Montreal. But her mother says that her grandparents have “much to show her” and that she will “learn lots of new things.” Indeed, Akuluk’s first days with her grandparents are packed with things that are new to her, and yet very old – traditions of her family’s people.The book is apparently intended for children ages 5 – 8. It’s full of information, from Inuktitut words (pronunciation guide in the back of the book) to details like duck-skin mittens and traditional ways of egg-gathering on remote Arctic islands. It's all woven into Akuluk’s experience, as her mother and grandparents (mainly her grandfather) explain things to her during the course of their normal activities. The characters are more than just conduits for information, though – they are warm, kind, and attuned to each other. Suzie Napayok-Short is from the community she writes about, and it shows. She also spent many years as an Inuktitut translator and interpreter in Canada, and in a sense Wild Eggs interprets some traditions for both the protagonist and the child who hears or reads the book. Wild Eggs could be just right for a child in Akuluk’s situation, growing up away from her family’s home culture. I think any child can also learn from and appreciate Akuluk’s experiences. The only problem I can foresee is that the word count is higher than is typical for read-alouds for that age group. For an adult sharing the book, that might mean taking care to call attention to what’s in the illustrations. Or, with some of Napayok-Short’s descriptions, the adult might want to invite children to close their eyes and picture the scene, such as this one: “Suddenly there were black and white and brown wings everywhere, birds cawing and crowing, almost filling the sky with their colors. Once in a while, Akuluk saw a king eider with its beautiful emerald green head and bright orange beak.”The text is full of sensory details, and the illustrations do justice to the author’s descriptive language. Artist Jonathan Wright’s bio in the book is vague, so I looked him up. Turns out he’s married to Inuk documentary-maker Alethea Arnaquq-Baril. He did artwork and animation for her film “Angry Inuk,” which looks at the ways Arctic indigenous people have been affected by protests against seal hunting. Wright doesn’t claim to be Indigenous. But his illustrations for Wild Eggs suggest that he’s deeply familiar with the people, landscape, weather, and creatures of the area where the story takes place. Some of the illustrations are playful, such as the 2-page spread (pp. 6-7) of Arctic hares scattering as a taxi speeds past them, throwing gravel, Akuluk’s amazed face pressed to the back window. Other pages express beauty– check out the spread on pp. 16-17. On one side, three silhouetted figures bounce across the tundra on a big ATV. Opposite them, a caribou watches, indistinct but commanding, while a large dark bird (crow or raven) flies overhead. Sorry about the poor photo quality, but I hope you get a sense of how it works:The detail and use of color are striking thro[...]

Not recommended: STOLEN WORDS by Melanie Florence


I picked up Melanie Florence's Stolen Words with a bit of trepidation because her previous picture book, Missing Nimama, was so troubling. It, and her novel, The Missing, felt off. (Here's my post about them.)At the time, I couldn't put my finger on why her books were unsettling. Some time after reading the two books, there was a writing contest in Canada. Florence supplied the prompt for it. When I read the prompt, I understood why I had so much trouble with those two books. Rather than holding people with care, she seemed to be using people who had been through traumatic loss as subjects for her writing. Some might say that she's a good writer and that she writes in compelling ways, but rather than moved, I felt manipulated.With that as background, I am here today with my thoughts on Stolen Words. ****Imagine. That's what writers do. They imagine a place, a time, and the people of that place and time.It is very hard to do well, especially when the writer is crossing into a place and time that is not their own, where every word they write is drawn from that imagining.On her website, Melanie Florence writes that she's Cree/Scottish. She also writes that she never had the chance to talk with her grandfather about his Cree heritage and that Stolen Words is about a relationship she imagines she had been able to have with him. In other words, she didn't grow up as a Cree person. She didn't grow up in a Cree community. Without a tangible connection to Cree people, the risk that we have a story that is more like something a Scottish person would write, is very high.Stolen Words opens with a seven-year-old girl skipping and dancing on her way home from school. She is holding a dream catcher that "she had made from odds and ends. Bits of strings. Plastic beads. And brightly colored feathers." Apparently that was a craft project at school. Why, I wonder, were they making dream catchers at school?As she walks home with her grandfather, she asks him how to say grandfather in Cree. He doesn't remember how to say it, he tells her, sadly. "I lost my words" he says. She asks "how do you lose words" to which he replies that "they took them away." Her subsequent questions build on the answer her grandfather gives to the previous one. Slowly we read that he was at a residential school. Their words, he says, were taken to the same place he and other children were taken away from home and from their mothers. When asked who took them away, he replies that it was "men and women dressed in black" who locked their words away and punished them if they used those words. The illustration for this part of the story shows a group of children. Thin ribbon like streams flow from their open mouths and take shape in the form of a raven that is being captured in a bird cage by a priest:Source: was describing that scene to Jean Mendoza. She said it sounds a lot like the scene in Disney's The Little Mermaid when Ursula takes Ariel's voice from her. Jean's right! It is a lot like that--and therein I come to my greatest concerns with Stolen Words. It is more like a fairy tale than a story about what happened to Native children in the residential schools.After that, we see the little girl's grandfather in tears. She touches his "weathered" face and tries to wipe away his sadness. She gives him the dream catcher and says she hopes it will help him find his words again, but in fact, it is she who helps him--which dovetails nicely with the fairy tale treatment of the brutal realities of the schools.The next day when he meets her aft[...]

Not Recommended: THE METROPOLITANS by Carol Goodman


Carol Goodman's The Metropolitans, published in 2017 by Penguin, includes a Mohawk character. I do not recommend her book. Here's the description:The day Japan bombs Pearl Harbor, four thirteen-year-olds converge at the Metropolitan Museum of Art where an eccentric curator is seeking four uncommonly brave souls to track down the hidden pages of the Kelmsbury Manuscript, an ancient book of Arthurian legends that lies scattered within the museum's collection, and that holds the key to preventing a second attack on American soil.  When Madge, Joe, Kiku, and Walt agree to help, they have no idea that the Kelmsbury is already working its magic on them. But they begin to develop extraordinary powers and experience the feelings of King Arthur, Queen Guinevere, Morgan le Fay, and Lancelot: courage, friendship, love...and betrayal.  Are they playing out a legend that's already been lived, over and over, across the ages?  Or can the Metropolitans forge their own story?As the description indicates, the setting for this story is 1941, on the day when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. There are four main characters. Joe is Mohawk, Kiku is Japanese American, Walt is a Jewish boy whose parents sent him to London from Germany, and Madge is White. The focus of my review is Joe.Meet JoeWhen the story kicks off, Joe has run away from the Mohawk Institute, a residential boarding school in Canada that students called the Mush Hole because of the food they were given there (more on residential schools, below). He's been in Manhattan a few days trying to find his older brother, Billie, who is a steelworker. Goodman gives a physical description of him as having "dark hair, and eyes the color of burnished copper. His skin was a lighter copper except where it was smudged with dirt on his sharp cheekbones" (p. 18). He's tall and apparently muscular enough that he's the one who is seen as the one that can get into physical fights when necessary. He speaks with a lisp and we learn that his special power will be one that allows him to read, speak, and understand any language. When he eventually knows his Mohawk name (Sose Tehsakohnhes) and some Mohawk words, we learn that his name means "he protects them" (p. 346) and Kiku thinks it is the right name for him.Not all Native people have dark hair, dark skin, dark eyes, and prominent cheekbones, but that is the default physical description a lot of authors use. Overused, and done that way, it is stereotypical. So is the idea that Joe is the one who will do the physical fighting. And his Mohawk name treads very close to the stereotypical ideas that circulate in US society about Native naming. Most troubling for me, however, is his power. I'll say more about that below.The Mush HoleJoe is 13 and had been at Mush Hole since he was five. The first time he ran away, it was wintertime (we don't know how old he was). He remembered his "Tota" (grandmother) telling him that bears go into caves in the winter, so he does that but wants to get back to Akwesasne. The third day after he took off, the principle finds him and takes him back to school. He is beaten for running away and for wanting to speak Mohawk. The second time he ran away he made it home but his dad tells him he has to go back. His brother (Billie) tells him to tough it out till he's sixteen and able to work with Billie. Before he goes back to Mush Hole, his grandmother whispers his Mohawk name in his ear so that he won't forget it, but at the school, he's beat again and forgets his name and other Mohawk words, too. One d[...]



Edited by Hope Nicholson, Moonshot: The Indigenous Comics Collection, Volume 2 has stories from several people who you may know from previous AICL reviews of their work.In particular, I'm thinking of Richard Van Camp. Some of you may recall that he is Tlicho Dene from Fort Smith in the Northwest Territories of Canada. For this review, I'm focusing on his "Water Spirits." Set in Yellowknife, the story opens with a science teacher talking to his class. (Bonus: the illustrator, Haiwei Hou, modeled the teacher after Richard, which was a surprise to Richard when he saw the illustrations.) They're about to head out to a gold mine where the tour guide will take them deeper into the mine than most tours go. There are cultural and spiritual aspects to "Water Spirits" but I am focusing on the destructive aspect of mining.As we see the bus full of kids on its way to the mine, there is some snark and banter. One kid wishes the mine was still open. He thinks it would be a great summer job, and he kind of doesn't like the history that their teacher shares, en route to the mine. That history? That the tour guide's family has lived in that area for hundreds of years before the mine opened in 1948.On the tour, the students learn that the mine brought an end to so much. Wildlife left the area. The river was polluted and Indigenous people couldn't fish from it anymore. A student asks if the technology and jobs from the mine brought other opportunities that made life easier for them, but the guide won't take that bait. He replies with more information:"This giant mine no longer operates because it is one of the most contaminated groundwater sites in Canada. For 50 years, almost 240,000 tonnes of arsenic trioxide waste was released into the ground and water where it remains."The students are surprised. "Arsenic?" they ask, puzzled. "Didn't the gold get dug out with hammers?" they say.That--for me--is a crucial moment in this story. Children's books, textbooks, television shows, and movies about gold mining perpetuate an image of some old guy with a pan, using it to find gold in streams of water. Others show men with pick axes, working in dark shafts. The reality, though, of how gold was taken from the earth is much darker than that. At that point in the story, the guide takes the students into a very dark tunnel full of pipes and tells them about the "roasting" method of extracting gold from rock.Stories that present mining--accurately--are vitally important. But here's the status quo: Instead of the truth, kids get inaccurate romantic nonsense about heroic self-made Americans who toughed it out, staking claims and panning for gold. That nonsense is even worse when we consider what happened to Native people who were "in the way" of those get-rich expeditions. For more on this, you can take a look at Exterminate Them: Written Accounts of Murder, Rape, and Enslavement of Native Americans during the California Gold Rush by Clifford E. Trafzer and Joel R. Hyer.In addition to Van Camp's "Water Spirits" there are many other excellent stories. Elizabeth LaPensée's story, "They Who Walk as Lightning" is also about protecting water. Erika Wurth (author of Crazy Horse's Girlfriend) wrote about Moonshot and featured this panel from LaPensée's story:If you are following Native news about our opposition to pipelines, that image will remind you, perhaps, of the Water Protectors at Standing Rock.Here's the Table of Contents for Moonshot: Scanning it you'll see familiar names--and names you should look out fo[...]

Highly Recommended: THE WATER WALKER written and illustrated by Joanne Robertson


Often, people write to ask me for books about Native people who are activists, or who might be involved in, or organizing, actions of some kind to protect their nations or homelands. Joanne Robertson's book is one I'm happy to recommend. Robertson's The Water Walker, published in 2017 by Second Story Press, is about Josephine Mandamin. Here's a photo of the two women, at a recent event promoting the book:Photo source is Anishinabek News: This collaboration is significant. Robertson and Mandamin worked together on the book. It is the epitome of #OwnVoices. Robertson joined Mandamin on walks that took place in 2011, 2015, and 2017. Here's the description, from the publisher's website:The story of a determined Ojibwe Grandmother (Nokomis) Josephine Mandamin and her great love for Nibi (water). Nokomis walks to raise awareness of our need to protect Nibi for future generations, and for all life on the planet. She, along with other women, men, and youth, have walked around all the Great Lakes from the four salt waters, or oceans, to Lake Superior. The walks are full of challenges, and by her example Josephine challenges us all to take up our responsibility to protect our water, the giver of life, and to protect our planet for all generations.Robertson turned Mandamin's work into an engaging story that invites children to learn about her activism. Told from the point of view of a child talking about her grandmother, Nokomis, we read about how Nokomis gives thanks, every day, for water. While she is thankful for water, she doesn't yet have the awareness of what might happen to it. One day, an ogimaa (Ojibwe for leader or chief) told her that water is at risk. He asked her, "What are you going to do about it?" Looking around, she understood what the ogimaa meant. Water was being wasted and polluted by people who didn't seem to understand the ramifications of their treatment of life-giving water. Weeks passed as his words and her observations weighed on her. Then one night she had a dream. The next day, she put a plan into action. See that? She called her sister, and kwewok niichiis (women friends). I'm not Ojibwe, but my heart swells seeing those Ojibwe words in this book! I see them all the time from Ojibwe friends and colleagues on social media. And clearly, these women are in a modern day kitchen. I love that, too. This story is centered in the present day. None of that silly or romantic nonsense in this book! That's a huge plus, too. The action they took? Walking, with Nokomis at the head of the line, carrying a pail of water and a Migizi Staff. They walked each spring, for seven years. That's serious and hard work--made accessible to kids by sneakers. The kwewok niichiis all wore sneakers as they walked. Every spring, they'd set out again. They started in 2003, walking around the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River. Sneakers wear out, as kids know. As they read (or as they're read to) The Water Walker, they'll enjoy the pages where the sneakers appear in text or illustration.As they walked, they prayed and sang and "left semaa in every lake, river, stream, and puddle they met." I'm pointing out that Robertson says, simply, that they left semaa (sacred tobacco) as they walked. It is a significant action, but Robertson doesn't give details. I really appreciate that! Some things need not be shared with readers. In an #OwnVoices story, we know what to--and what not to--disclose. In the next pages, w[...]

Recommended: NIMOSHOM AND HIS BUS by Penny M. Thomas


Several people wrote to tell me about Nimoshom and His Bus. Due out in 2018 from Highwater Press, the story is by Penny M. Thomas (Cree-Ojibway background), with illustrations by Karen Hibbard.

If you're a regular reader of AICL, you know that we're always delighted by books by Native writers--especially ones set in the present. Books like Nimoshom and His Bus provide Native children with mirrors that non-Native children find in abundance. When I was a kid, a yellow school bus came onto our reservation and took the bunch of us Nambé kids to school. I rode the bus for years and years. I remember one driver. Eddie. Because he wore a big cowboy hat. It would have been so cool to have one who would have used Tewa words when we got on the bus, or, when we got a bit rambunctious!

That's Nimoshom on the cover. Nimoshom is a Cree word that means "my grandfather." On each page, we see him engaging with children and using Cree words. "Tansi" he says, when he greets them. Of course, that means hello. The straightforward text is terrific. Hibbard's illustrations perfectly capture the warmth and joy of the kids on that bus, and the guy who drives their bus.

I highly recommend Nimoshom and His Bus! It'd be a simple thing to use other Native words in addition to--or instead of--the Cree words in the book. In fact... When it comes out in 2018, I'm going to send a copy of this to the Tewa teacher at the school that serves Nambé kids!

AICL's Best Books of 2017


I'm starting AICL's "Best Books of 2017" today--November 24--and will update it as we read other books published in 2017.Please share this page with teachers, librarians, parents--anyone, really--who is interested in books about Native peoples. As we come across additional books published in 2017, we will add them to this list. If you know of ones we might want to consider, please let us know!BY NATIVE WRITERS OR ILLUSTRATORSComics and Graphic NovelsNicholson, Hope. (Ed.) (2017). Moonshot: The Indigenous Comics Collection, Volume 2. Alternative History Comics, Canada.Robertson, David. (2017). Will I See? Portage and Main Press. Canada.Storm, Jen. (2017). Fire Starters. Highwater Press. Canada.Vermette, Katherena. (2017). A Girl Called Echo. HighWater Press. Canada. Board BooksFlett, Julie. (2017). Black Bear, Red Fox: Colours in Cree. Native Explore. Canada.Picture BooksCampbell, Nicola. (2017). A Day with Yayah, illustrated by Julie Flett. Tradewind Books. Canada. Ortiz, Simon J. (2017). The People Shall Continue, illustrated by Sharol Graves. Lee and Low. U.S.Robertson, Joanne. (2017). The Water Walker. Second Story Press. Canada.Smith, Monique Gray. (2017). You Hold Me Up, illustrated by Danielle Daniel. Orca. Canada.Vandever, Daniel W. (2017). Fall in Line, Holden! Salina Books. U.S.For Middle GradesTingle, Tim. (2017). "Choctaw Bigfoot, Midnight in the Mountains." in Flying Lessons and Other Stories. Random House. U.S.For High School Charleyboy, Lisa and Mary Beth Leatherdale. (2017). #NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American. Annick Press. Canada.Dimaline, Cherie. (2017). The Marrow Thieves. Dancing Cat Books. Canada. Rendon, Marcie. (2017). Murder on the Red River. Cinco Puntos Press. U.S.Robertson, David. (2017). Strangers. HighWater Press. Canada. BY WRITERS WHO ARE NOT NATIVEPicture BooksElliott, Zetta. (2017). Benny Doesn't Like to be Hugged. Rosetta Press. U.SFor Middle GradesBrown, Monica. (2017). Lola Levine and the Vacation Dream. Little Brown. U.S.[...]

Not recommended: John Smelcer's KISKA


Published by Leapfrog Press, John Smelcer's Kiska was released in November of 2017.  I'll start by saying I do not recommend Kiska. Back in September when I received an advanced reader copy of Smelcer's book, I tweeted as I read it. Last week, Melissa S. Green sent me an in-depth review of his book. Rather than repeat what she said in her excellent review, I'm going to focus on a couple of things: the seal story and the dramatic character of Smelcer's story.First, though some background.My guess is that most people do not know that Native peoples of Alaska were removed from their villages during World War II. In fact, most people don't know much about the Indigenous people of Alaska.As I began the background research to review Kiska, I wrote to colleagues and writers in Alaska to ask about the internment of the Aleut people. I learned that the preferred name for the people I was asking about is Unangan. One resource I was pointed to is The Alaska Native Reader (2009), edited by Maria Sháa Tláa Williams. Here's a paragraph (I highlighted the end of the last sentence (Kindle Locations 62-66):The history of Alaska is often told from the perspective of outsiders and those who view the resources of Alaska as amazing treasures to exploit. There are stories of eighteenth-century Russian fur hunters, of the brave miners who came to Alaska in the late nineteenth century to discover gold, of the companies that developed salmon canneries, and, in the twentieth century, of the oil companies that worked together to build the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, one of the engineering marvels of the twentieth century. These stories are often highlighted and even exalted, yet one must ask what was the impact on the indigenous people.When I review a children's book, I consider impact. What will the content of a book do to Native children, particularly the children who are of the identity the characters are meant to be. Will it accurately reflect their people, past and present, and their experiences--good and bad? And, what will a book do to non-Native children? Will it give them reliable information about the people who are depicted in the book? The answers to those questions are why I do not recommend Kiska.****Let's start with the description (from Amazon):Kiska’s home in the Aleutian Islands is a peaceful paradise until Japan invades in 1942. Soon after, a U.S. naval ship arrives to evacuate everyone in her village to an internment camp almost 2,000 miles away—where they are forgotten. Informed by true events, this is the story of a teenage girl who steps up when her people need a hero.In chapter one, we meet Kiska as a grandmother who is telling her 13-year-old granddaughter what happened to her in 1942 when she was 13 years old. Kiska speaks to her granddaughter in a way that suggests that the granddaughter knows little, if anything, about being Aleut and nothing about 1942. Making the granddaughter ignorant makes it possible for the author (Smelcer) to write for a similarly ignorant audience of readers.On page 16, for example, Kiska says that their word for kayak is baidarka. We can read that as her attempt to teach her granddaughter their language, but she only uses baidarka that one time. After that, Kiska uses kayak. If part of what Kiska/Smelcer are doing is to teach some Indigenous words using story, it would have been appropriate to us[...]