Mission to Space

missiontospace

Image Credit: White Dog Press (Chickasaw Press), John Herrington

Native American Heritage Month just ended here in the U.S. with constant reports of aggression and violence towards Native peoples at Oceti Sakowin Camp. Snow has fallen on the camp and the water protectors are still standing strong against the Dakota Access Pipeline. I’ve noticed, through media coverage of this situation, that visibility of Native peoples has risen somewhat. When children see Native people standing strong and united against a pipeline that will affect all of us, that helps fight ignorance & combats racism. Stereotypes of Native people are still very pervasive and harmful.

Contemporary stories about Native people, especially written by Native people, are important “mirror” books for Native children who simply don’t see enough of themselves in books. These stories are also vital tools in classrooms full of non-Native children. That’s why Mission to Space is so important; it’s a non-fiction book, written by Chickasaw astronaut John Herrington, printed by Chickasaw Press. Author Zetta Elliott often talks about the importance of community-based publishing and this is a perfect example.

mission-to-space2

Image Credit: White Dog Press (Chickasaw Press), John Herrington

In Mission to Space, Commander John Herrington takes us back to his roots as a boy who loved shooting rockets with his dad and brother. Years later, he’d grow up to be an astronaut on the shuttle Endeavor! In this book, simple but effective text is accompanied by vivid photographs. Herrington explains how much work it takes to do something well and in his case, to become an astronaut. That’s an important lesson for children. When he was launched into space, people from his nation came to celebrate; he was the first tribally-enrolled Native person to fly in space!

Children who love science, astronomy and languages will get a lot out of this book. Not only does Herrington give readers a behind-the-scenes look into what it takes to become an astronaut, he talks about how important language is for Chickasaw identity and provides a glossary of space terms in the Chickasaw language. I hope you’ll check this book out!

P.S. Visit the book’s website to see a cool video and take a look at Debbie Reese’s glowing review.

 

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Astronomy, Determination, Dreams, Role Models, STEM, Language, Native American, Chickasaw, Sovereignty, Native American Heritage Month, Family, Discussion
Book Info: Mission to Space by John Herrington, 2016 White Dog Press (Chickasaw Press), ISBN: 9781935684473

 

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We Sang You Home

wesangyouhome

Image Credit: Orca Book Publishers, Richard Van Camp/Julie Flett

We’re about half-way through Native American Heritage Month 2016 and almost a week into a world where Donald J. Trump is the President-Elect of the United States of America…I’ve been reflecting and thinking a lot about peace, love and family. I’ve also been thinking about kindness and doing my best to share books that celebrate open-mindedness, different perspectives, cultures and #ownvoices. I can’t praise this one enough.

If you’re looking for a great book that celebrates the joy and wonder of having a child, look no further. We Sang You Home is beautifully written and illustrated. We’re slowly getting more books about Native families created by Native people but we need more. As a bookseller and blogger, I can’t wait for these stories! I want to share them and most importantly, Native kids need to see more of themselves on bookshelves.

In We Sang You Home, a Native couple tells their child how they wished and dreamed for him and how his arrival changes their lives. They are better for having him. “We sang you from a wish. We sang you from a prayer. We sang you home and you sang back.” A child holds its parents hopes, dreams and wishes. Van Camp writes beautifully and in the short format of a board book, tells a story of happiness. We’re reminded that a child chooses its family just as much as a family wishes for it; it’s magic.

Julie Flett is a great illustrator; I always enjoy reading and reviewing her books! In this one, she depicts the sweetness of Van Camp’s words with warm earth colors, sunsets & moonshine, toothy smiles and brown skin. Flat, blocks of color fill the pages. The simpler the better for board books and this one is simply beautiful.

I hope you’ll pick it up for Native American Heritage Month and enjoy it throughout the year! 🙂

 

P.S. Check out Debbie Reese’s beautiful review here.

 

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Celebration, Diversity, Love, Family, Happiness, Indigenous Peoples, Native Heritage Month, New Baby
Book Info: We Sang You Home by Richard Van Camp/Illustrated by Julie Flett, 2016 Orca Book Publishers, ISBN: 9781459811782

Eagle Song

EagleSong

Image Credit: Puffin Books (Penguin Group), Joseph Bruchac/Dan Andreasen

Okay! To close out Native American Heritage Month, my last pick is Eagle Song. Did you that Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) people, especially Mohawk, built New York City? They have a long history of iron working in the city and many Native families moved down to the Big Apple to make a new life. The transition from traditional communities/reservations to the cold, concrete life of the big city can be a hard for Native peoples and in this book, Danny Bigtree experiences this struggle.

Danny has trouble adjusting to his new life in Brooklyn and it doesn’t help that his peers bully him for being Indian and different. He misses his green home of Akwesasne. His dad travels around the country doing iron work, leaving him alone with his mom and his frustrations. His father comes home from Boston and tells him the story of the Peacemaker and this story gives him strength, especially when he tells it to his son’s class; teaching cultural awareness and respect. Danny keeps his strong father’s words of peace with him as he faces his bully, Tyrone and he slowly becomes stronger and more confident in his new home in the city.

Change is never easy and in Eagle Song, Danny Bigtree has a lot of challenges to overcome. This story isn’t very long but it packs a punch and teaches several lessons. Dan Andraesen’s pencil illustrations bring the story to life, especially the loving scenes between Danny and his parents. I love how Bruchac (Abenaki) weaves in Mohawk words and culture into the story. Eagle Song is a short and easy to read chapter book that touches on a lot of important issues for young children like friendship, loneliness, change, bullying and respect.

For more information about Mohawk Ironworkers, check out these great resources:

To Brooklyn and Back: A Mohawk Journey– Documentary by Reaghan Tarbell

Mohawk Council of Awkesasne- Ratiristakehron: Mohawk Ironworkers

Sky Walking: Raising Steel, A Mohawk Ironworker Keeps Tradition Alive

Booming Out-Mohawk Iron Workers Build New York City– Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) Exhibit

Recommended for: Ages 7-8 and up
Great for: Family, Discussion, Native American Heritage Month, Iroquois, Bullying, Cultural Diversity, We Need Diverse Books
Book Info: Eagle Song by Joseph Bruchac, 1997 Puffin Books (Penguin Group), ISBN: 9780688009144

 

Jingle Dancer

JingleDancer

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

 

Wild Berries

WildBerries

Image Credit: Simply Read Books, Julie Flett

 

Guess what? It’s still Native American Heritage Month! Yippee!  If you didn’t see my first post celebrating this month, please check out my review for Hiawatha and the Peacemaker!

Wild Berries is a sweet little book. Julie Flett is Cree-Metis and lives in Vancouver, BC. Wild Berries is written in English with words translated into the n-dialect (Swampy Cree) of Cree. This particular dialect of Cree is from the Cumberland House area of Saskatchewan. As you enjoy the story, you can also pick up a few Cree words. Flett includes more information about the various dialects of Cree and a pronunciation guide at the back of the book.

In this book, Little Clarence and his grandmother set out for the day, exploring nature and picking all types of berries. Clarence starts out on her back but grows into a boy who is curious about his surroundings. He especially loves big, sour ininimina (blueberries). There are many animals in the woodlands and when his bucket is full of sweet berries, he is sure to leave a few as a gift for the animals…and they are thankful. The readers get a gift as well, Flett includes a recipe for Wild Blueberry Jam at the end of the story.

Flett’s style reminds me of cut paper though it looks to be watercolor and digital illustration. She uses basic shapes to make eyes, arms, animals and trees. The bright red orange sun follows the grandma and her grandson as they enjoy the day together. Maybe you’ll want to go berry picking after reading this book, I know I sure want to!  Come on spring.  🙂

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Diversity, Native American Heritage Month, Cree, Language, Colors, Food Culture, Family, Animals, We Need Diverse Books
Book Info: Wild Berries by Julie Flett, 2013 Simply Read Books, ISBN: 9781897476895

Hiawatha and the Peacemaker

Image Credit: Abrams, Robbie Robertson/David Shannon

Image Credit: Abrams, Robbie Robertson/David Shannon

November is Native American Heritage Month and to kick off the month right, I’m paying homage to a place that’s special to me. I attended Cornell University in Ithaca, NY and the campus sits on Cayuga land. The Cayuga are one of the Six Nations of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Confederacy). I learned a lot from Haudenosaunee people and I love their land (it is gorges up there). So the first book I’ll review to celebrate this month is an AMAZING new picture book called Hiawatha and the Peacemaker by Robbie Robertson and illustrated by David Shannon.

This book tells the story of how the warring nations of the Haudnosaunee came together in peace. Hiawatha is a sad man with anger in his heart because the evil Onondaga Chief Tadadaho killed his wife and children; he is hell-bent on revenge. One day, a man called the Peacemaker comes and tells Hiawatha that he needs him to carry his message of Peace, Power and Righteousness to all the nations. Hiawatha has to look inside himself to realize the power of forgiveness.

This story will be familiar to some readers and brand new to most but what shines about this book is not only its powerful message, but that it’s by a Native American author (Robertson is Mohawk and Cayuga) and Shannon’s oil paintings are beautiful. There are many books about Native peoples by non-Native authors; some are well researched and are respectful but many are not. Robertson tells his people’s story and that in and of itself gives power to this book. David Shannon worked with Robertson to create bold illustrations that carry the power of the story. They are so very strong. This book will appeal to artists, lovers of Native Studies and history, and any child or adult who craves a great story.

Recommended for: All ages, especially 4th grade and up
Great for: History, Native American Heritage Month, Cultural Diversity, Discussion, We Need Diverse Books
Book Info: Hiawatha and the Peacemaker by Robbie Robertson/Illustrated by David Shannon, 2015 Abrams, ISBN: 9781419712203