Review: Giving Thanks

“To be a human being is an honor, and we offer thanksgiving for all the gifts of life.” page 4

Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message by Chief Jake Swamp, illustrate by Erwin Printup, Jr.
My edition Scholastic, New York, 1997, originally published by Lee and Low, 1995.
Picture book, 24 pages.
Lexile:  AD520L  ( What does AD mean in Lexile? )
AR Level:  3.3 (worth 0.5 points)  .
NOTE: There is another book by the same title but subtitled “The 1621 Harvest Feast.”

A children’s book adaptation of the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address by Mohawk Chief Jake Swamp.

Giving Thanks Swamp Cover resized

This is one of those books that gives the lie to publishers who say they can’t find qualified Native authors and illustrators.  Already back in 1995, Lee and Low had Cayuga/Tuscarora painter Erwin Printup, who not only has a degree in fine arts, but also provides gorgeous, culturally appropriate illustrations for this title.  In fact, we were so taken with this book that I went searching for other children’s books illustrated by Printup.  But it seems that he was also underemployed, because all I found was a few anthologies he was included in.

While this is a handy alternative for librarians to give parents and teachers who insist on Thanksgiving books, truly this book could be read at any time of year.  As Swamp explains in his can’t-miss author’s note, not only is the Thanksgiving Address read at every gathering of the Six Nations, it’s also taught to children as a morning thank you.

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Web: Wampanoag

An apology, and a few sites to check out.

First, I want to apologize.  I’ve written in the past about the unique Deaf culture that formed on what is known to many people as Martha’s Vineyard, and even reviewed a book about it.  But it never occurred to me to also inform about the indigenous peoples of the area.

I’m sorry for my thoughtless erasure, and would like to point all my readers whether hearing, HH, or Deaf, to this website which will tell you a little more about some of the specific places on the island, their names and significance to the Wampanoag people.  Or this page tells more about the Aquinnah Wampanoag who lived on the island then and still live there today.

For young people, here is a video from Scholastic with some modern Wampanoag girls at the heritage site:

Here is another brief introduction for kids.  These resources are produced from the Wampanoag Homesite associated with Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts.

The Wampanoag people are typically only mentioned by the rest of the country around Thanksgiving, and The Wampanoag Side of the Tale gives one woman’s opinions on the real story of the holiday.

Review: The Underground Railroad

“His patients believed they were being treated for blood ailments. The tonics the hospital administered, however, were merely sugar water.” p. 124

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.
Anchor Books, Penguin Random House, New York, 2016.
Adult fiction, 313 pages.
Lexile:  890L  .
AR Level: not yet leveled

Cora is a young woman on a Georgia plantation when a new arrival asks her to run away with him.  Only one slave has ever successfully escaped the Randall plantation, but Caesar believes that if they run together, they’ll make it to the elusive Underground Railroad.

The Underground Railroad (Colson Whitehead) resized

It took me a good while to get to this one.  I’d seen a lot of mixed reviews, and in general I’m not a fan of magical realism (which is what most people were calling this).  Finally I saw this at Target and decided to use it as one of my targetpicks selections.

Going into the read with low expectations definitely helped this novel blow me away.  It’s a very difficult book to classify.  Whitehead uses elements of many different genres, including historical fiction, adventure, science fiction, magical realism, and realistic fiction.

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Web: Osage

Earlier I posted a review of a true crime book about the murders of Osage during their decades of intense wealth.  Here are some links for those interested in learning more, although I will warn that some give away the story in the book, so you may wish to read the book before clicking some of these links.

The Osage Nation Museum is a great place to start and to visit if you are ever in the area.  It’s part of the larger Osage Nation website which has a wealth of information and where you can also sign up for free Osage language lessons.

This photoessay contains many (but not all) of the photographs found in the book.  This NPR interview with the author also tells quite a bit of the story, or you can read the first chapter on the New York Times website.

“It’s the story of an incredibly sinister crime — a true racial injustice. I did not want this to be simply a cataloging of the dead. And I didn’t want it to be cursory. For the most part, when these murders had been written about — if they were mentioned at all — there was no sense of who these people were, or what their lives were like. You never got close to their consciousness or their souls. That’s what I set out to do.”

^ In this interview, Grann talks about how difficult it was for him to write a purely historical book (his others seem to have been straight true crime or adventure books), as well as the challenge of confronting the evil of widespread racism and systematic murder.

He also did an interview with Indian Country Today.

In an unrelated but interesting Osage story, a family oral history was used to rediscover and eventually recover ten busts from 100 years ago that were lost at the Smithsonian, which can now be see at the museum linked above.

 

Review: Killers of the Flower Moon

“Mollie was one of the last people to see Anna before she vanished.” p. 8

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann.
Vintage Books, Penguin Random House, New York, 2017.  Originally published Doubleday, 2016.
Nonfiction, 377 pages including notes and bibliography.
Lexile:  1160L  .
AR Level:  8.8 (worth 14.0 points)  .

Through an unusual turn of events, in the 1920s the Osage people became astonishingly rich.  Unable to stomach an autonomous American Indian tribe, the United States government appointed “guardians” who would watch over their every purchase, and white settlers moved in to the area with ridiculously overpriced goods and services.  And then came the murders.  Many were focused around one family, and the FBI eventually got involved in their case.

Killers of the Flower Moon resized

Normally I read books about more Northern tribes because that’s where we live and travel most often, but after passing through Oklahoma, the Osage interested me.  If you are looking for a book about the Osage, this one keeps coming up, so when I saw it at Target I decided to give it a try.

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Review: The Toymaker’s Apprentice

“Just then, the massive pendulum he’d seen in the outer caverns swung into the chamber, lifting Stefan’s hair in its wake. In the light of the Cogworks, it shone like a slice of the sun.” p. 122

The Toymaker’s Apprentice by Sherri L. Smith.
Puffin Books, Penguin Random House, New York, 2016.
MG fantasy, 392 pages.
Lexile:  710L  .
AR Level:  5.2 (worth 14.0 points)  .

The Toymaker's Apprentice resized

By the second reading, I’d worked out how to describe this book when recommending it.  It’s a bit like a cross between Hugo and Redwall, without really being like either at all.  While this is technically a retelling of the story of the Nutcracker, I believe it could stand alone even if a reader had no previous knowledge of the stories and ballet it’s based on.

Sherri L. Smith is one of those rare authors who seems to write many genres well.  You might recall my review of her historical fiction Flygirl, and the dystopian Orleans is one of my favorite books (though I’m still struggling to review it).  She’s also written several contemporary novels that I haven’t gotten to yet, and this piece is a middle grade fantasy retelling.

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