Jingle Dancer


Image Credit: HarperCollins, Cynthia Leitich Smith/Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu

The next book to celebrate Native American Heritage Month is this gorgeously illustrated one called Jingle Dancer. In college I planned our annual powwow and I LOVE a good powwow so I was very excited to finally sit down and read this book. Jingle Dress also happens to be one of my favorite dances and powwow regalia. Maybe it’s the quiet confidence of the steps and the swish-swishswish of the metal cones moving across the floor in beat with the drum. It’s a beauty!

Jingle Dress Dance at Gathering of Nations. Watch Willow Jack in the Black and Neon Green! She’s my favorite. Her footwork and grace! 🙂

Cynthia Leitich Smith is Muscogee Creek and Jingle Dancer is about a little Muscogee Creek/ Ojibway girl who loves to dance. From the moment Jenna wakes up she hears the metal cones clink as she thinks about her grandma’s bounce-step. She’s ready to try dancing at the next powwow but her dress isn’t ready; she needs four rows of jingles for her dress to be able to sing. And so, she sets out to visit various family members and friends throughout the day, hears their stories and asks to borrow a row of jingles. With all her jingles in place, she remembers the people who helped her, as she proudly dances at the powwow. The Jingle Dress dance originated as a dance of healing, so like Jenna, dancers often dance for someone special or sick. Make sure to read the Author’s Note in the back of the book because there’s a lot of great information.

Leitich Smith is Native and the illustrators Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu are African American and Chinese. What a diverse team of authors and illustrators! This is SO nice to see! Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu’s illustrations glow; the watercolor paintings carry the rhythm of the dance and show the love between Jenna and her grandmother. Leitich Smith’s rich storytelling and the realistic illustrations make me feel like I’m back at a powwow. I love how this book shows a contemporary, loving Native family; many people think Native people are only in the past so representation is important.

I hope this picture book encourages you to learn more about powwows (the dances, the regalia, the food and the fun) and to maybe even seek one out when spring season comes!

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Native American Heritage Month, Powwow, Girl Power, Dance, Cultural Diversity, We Need Diverse Books, Family, Community
Book Info: Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith/Illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu, 2000 HarperCollins, ISBN: 9780688162412



8 thoughts on “Jingle Dancer

  1. rosesforourselves says:

    Wow, I never knew about Jingle Dance before. I just saw the video you linked in this post and it was really fascinating to watch. I would love to see it in person one day. Thank you for sharing this! And also thank you for sharing the significance of it as well. I have a huge interest in cultural dances and you taught me something new today 🙂

    • readitrealgood says:

      Hi! Awesome! You’re very welcome. Depending on where you live, you may have a powwow in your area. They’re cool because they are meant for sharing; everyone is welcome to go to powwow and have fun watching the competition and eating the food. There are several powwow dance styles. I also like Grass Dance, Chicken Dance, Women’s Traditional, Fancy Shawl and Smokedance. Check out http://www.powwows.com 🙂 What other cultural dances do you like?

      • Neeti says:

        Thanks for the link! I’ll definitely check it out. I actually do Bollywood dancing and some Bhangra (a Punjabi folk dance). I have done a one hour African dance workshop as well, which was really tiring but so much fun! Currently, I just started learning Egyptian belly dance. I just think that dance is a great way to explore other cultures and my goal is to experience as many different dance styles as I can. I’m actually working on getting a second blog up soon where I will be documenting my journey as I learn and discover new dances.

      • readitrealgood says:

        Very cool. My college had an awesome Bhangra team. That’s really interesting. Generally for powwows you have to be a registered member of a tribe to compete but most powwows have “intertribals” where they invite people in the audience to come out and dance; usually they do “round dances” which are fun. Dance really is a great way to learn about culture and tradition. We all dance! I’m looking forward to checking out that blog when you get it up!

      • Neeti says:

        Intertribals – That’s good to know. I actually found a powwow happening near where I live from that site you linked me, so I look forward to attending and learning more. And thanks for the interest in my blog! I’ll be sure to let you know when it’s up 🙂 Been lovely having a conversation with you today. Keep in touch!

      • readitrealgood says:

        Oh that’s awesome! Hope you have a good time. Spring/Summer is prime powwow season so hope you’ll find some good ones then. Yeah your blog looks cool and I also enjoyed our conversation. Take care and I will keep in touch 🙂

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