“I can still be sorry that you had to experience that. No child or woman should ever be treated like you, Suzie, and your mom were. It helps me understand a little bit why you think you wouldn’t be any good at fancy dancing.” page 9
Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids, edited by Cynthia Leitich Smith. Heartdrum, HarperCollins, New York, 2021, my edition 2022. MG short story anthology, 312 pages including back matter. Lexile: not yet leveled AR Level: 5.0 (worth 9.0 points) . NOTE: This review is longer than usual since I discuss each piece and the book as a whole. Also see note on accent marks.
An anthology of pieces centered around one powwow in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Despite having left school library life some time ago, I still get excited to see new collections and anthologies like this one published, because they are such important additions to the classroom. Ancestor Approved manages to take this to the next level by having the stories and poems all connected, despite most being by different authors. If it’s difficult as a reader to wrap your head around the many linkages and connections, just imagine the work Cynthia Leitich Smith did to bring this book together!
There are 18 different pieces by 16 different authors (and Nicole Neidhardt who contributed the excellent cover illustration is also rightfully acknowledged). Most are short stories although the book closes and opens with poems. There’s also considerable supportive matter, including a foreword, glossary broken down by story, notes, acknowledgements, and brief biographies of all contributors. As is my custom for anthologies and collections, I’ll discuss each of the individual pieces briefly before returning to the discussion of the work as a whole.
“Samuel tried to remember what his father had told him about Indians. The Light of God was in them too. He struggled to keep that in his mind, but it did not ease his fear.” page 66
The Arrow Over the Door by Joseph Bruchac, illustrated by James Watling. Puffin, Penguin Random House, New York, 1998. Historical fiction, 104 pages (including excerpts). Lexile: 810L . AR Level: 5.2 (worth 2.0 points) .
Set in 1777 and told in alternating views from the perspectives of Quaker boy Samuel Russell and Abenaki teen Stands Straight, this novel is based on real events during the American Revolution.
Joseph Bruchac, although not without error, is one of the handful of Native authors consistently writing historical fiction for children. (Louise Erdrich’s Birchbark House series is another notable example; Eric Gansworth and Tim Tingle have also written more than one book each. At the time of this writing, any others I know of only have one.) Also, I have so far been able to find only one work of children’s historical fiction by another Native author set before 1800. I hope others exist and are published set in all time frames, especially given the promising new Heartdrum imprint.
An update, the hiatus plan, and what was popular on CBR in 2021.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted regularly, and I’ll probably be switching to a more sporadic schedule for a while. I’m also thinking of taking a planned two months off yearly, to ensure that my blogging stays fresh and I don’t burn out. (Most likely this would be either June and July, or June and December.) As I’ve stated before, these reviews are a hobby and labor of love – my real life commitments will always come first. That said, I was a little shocked to leave this blog for over five months and come back to find it was still getting over a thousand views per month! I’m always curious about the top posts, especially when they aren’t the ones I’d expect.
My booklists and negative reviews are consistently among the most viewed (including my Diverse Disabled booklist which is sorely in need of updating – pointing to the real need for accurate lists and reviews of this category of books). People apparently love drama and I definitely want to make more booklists, it just takes a long time because I prefer to review every book on a list, or at least the first in each series, before I feel confident making a recommendation list.
But what interests me the most are the individual posts. My reviews of indigenous fiction have been getting far more hits this year than ever before – even though I haven’t updated the page for that challenge since 2017! I do use the tag regularly, so maybe that’s how people are finding my reviews? Also, now that I’ve gotten to know more homeschool families, and that community is growing since the pandemic, I wonder if that is a newer demographic finding me online.
But by FAR my top post this past year was the second book in the Scraps of Time series, Away West, which I reviewed way back in 2018. I have no idea why but am happy to see a book we loved on my top posts! Perhaps people liked that I suggested it as a family read aloud? Or were looking for historical fiction? Maybe someone will comment and let me know what drew them to that review – especially if you started reading Colorful Book Reviews in March of 2021, when that post suddenly had hundreds of views but no referral pingbacks…
Anyway, seeing that Away West is still among my top back posts, it reminded me that perhaps some of the other books my family and I have been reading about African American life in the West might be worth reviewing here. Plus I probably should get around to photographing and posting my reviews of the final two books in the Scraps of Time series, which we read years ago.
If you came here in the last half year when I was not actively posting, what brought you? What book lists, reviews, or posts would you find most interesting?
I write this blog in large part for my own reference (hence why I keep doing Website Wednesdays despite nobody but me ever reading those posts), but of course I also hope that it is useful to other parents, teachers, and librarians as well.
“Good morning salmon swimming up the stream.” page 7
Good Morning World by Paul Windsor.
My edition Native Northwest, Vancouver, Canada, 2018. (Originally published in 2011.)
Board book, 24 pages.
Good morning greetings to various parts of the Pacific Northwest world, with local indigenous artwork.
This was, as near as I can recall, one of the earliest board books ever printed by Native Northwest. Some of the early versions appeared to have trouble with the printing, but by now that’s all sorted and my copy is full of vibrant color.
“Suddenly he heard a sound like pebbles being shaken in a hollow gourd. His heart leaped into his throat as he threw himself to one side to keep from stepping on the huge rattlesnake that was coiled in the middle of the trail.” page 78
Children of the Longhouse by Joseph Bruchac.
Puffin, Penguin Group, New York, 1996.
MG historical fiction, 154 pages.
Lexile: 950L .
AR Level: 5.5 (worth 5.0 points) .
NOTE: This is a work of fiction although I’m not reviewing it on Fiction Friday.
Follow twins Ohkwa’ri and his sister Otsi:stia as they navigate peers who are trying to break the peace treaty, coming of age, and a sacred game of lacrosse.
It’s worth noting that this is NOT an #ownvoices book. Bruchac is Abenaki, a neighboring group to the twins – but the main characters are all Mohawk, members of the Iroquois League of Peace. This book was originally included in a 2006 recommendation list on AICL, but I noticed that as of this writing, Bruchac was conspicuously absent from the August 2020 list of historical fiction recommendations on AICL. This makes sense given that AICL has recently had several neutral or negative reviews of his work, especially when working outside of his own nation. However, given the glowing reviews some of his books have previously gotten, it’s hard to know if he’s still a generally suggested author or not. Continue reading “Review: Children of the Longhouse”
“I read somewhere in an anthropology book that we Sioux ‘thrive on a culture of excitement.’ During the years from 1973 to 1975 we had more than enough excitement for even the most macho warrior, more than we could handle.” p. 192
Lakota Woman by Mary Crow Dog and Richard Erdoes.
HarperPerennial, Harper Collins, New York, 1990. Originally published by Grove Weidenfeld.
Adult autobiography, 264 pages.
Lexile: 970L .
AR Level: not leveled.
The life story of Mary Crow Dog, especially her time with the American Indian Movement and at Wounded Knee.
Every so often I stumble into a book with no expectations. I wasn’t familiar with this title when I got it and started reading with only the basic knowledge that it was a Native American woman’s autobiography. However, instead it was an education!
“You could have been hurt! You two need to be more careful near that inuksuk.” page 10
Putuguq & Kublu by Danny Christopher, illustrated by Astrid Arijanto.
Inhabit Media, Iqualuit, Nunavut, Canada, 2017.
Early reader graphic novel, 40 pages.
Putuguq and his dog are trying to play a trick on big sister Kublu. While running across the tundra they meet Grandpa who reminds them to be careful around the inuksuit. Of course then Putuguq has to try to lift his own stone… but the results aren’t what he expected!
This is the first book of a graphic novel series called Putuguq & Kublu. We had already read the second title (without realizing that it was the second in a series) called Putuguq & Kublu and the Qualupaliit! I didn’t see any more in this series yet, but would definitely continue to buy them if more are released.
This is the introductory book, which shows us a little about our favorite siblings and their world. I’m not very familiar with tundra seasons but am guessing that this takes place in the spring or summer, because flowers are shown blooming.
Our 46th board book is a favorite, and has further uses for language learners.
Cradle Me by Debby Slier.
Star Bright Books, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2012.
Board book, 12 pages.
Ten different babies in ten different cradle boards showing ten different emotions or actions.
This has been a surprise favorite of our children. I knew from Global Babies and other series that they would enjoy seeing real photographs of other babies, but I had no idea this basic book would hold their attention so well.
“Off they headed to the shoreline. Putuguq led the way as the two walked quickly across the melting snow of the tundra to meet up with Kublu’s friend Lisa.” page 9
Putuguq & Kublu and the Qalupalik! by Roselynn Akulukjuk and Danny Christopher, illustrated by Astrid Arijanto.
Inhabit Media, Iqualuit, Nunavut, Canada, 2018.
Early reader graphic novel, 40 pages.
NOTE: This is a work of fiction although I’m not reviewing it on Fiction Friday.
Annoying little brother Putuguq, his dog, and big sister Kublu are on their way to meet her friend Lisa. On the way they meet Grandpa who tells them a little about Qalupaliit and before they know it they might even meet one…
I’m always excited to find early readers and early chapter books with diverse characters. It’s particularly important to me that a variety of indigenous cultures are represented in our family’s library because our kids will have the opportunity to interact with people from every continent and most ethnicities. They know many people from the LGBT community, differently abled kids and adults, and people with a variety of religious beliefs.
But even though we actively seek out opportunities for our children to learn about our area’s indigenous culture and those of other regions we travel to, realistically there are some areas we may never visit. I’d prefer that as much as possible, we learn about those areas through #ownvoices representation rather than through white people’s books.
Which is a long winded way of saying books like this, or Shark King, are so important.