Posts Tagged ‘native americans’

While many Americans mark today as Columbus Day, here in Minneapolis, I’m glad to say, we also honor it as Indigenous People’s Day.


As Columbus didn’t discover the Americas — numerous peoples and vast civilizations were already here when he arrived — and as he wasn’t the first European to find the Americas — did you know that yesterday was officially Leif Erikson Day? — and as he stumbled across the continents quite in error…you must admit, it’s a bit of a strange holiday. Not to mention the aftermath.


I much prefer to honor the First Nations in their fascinating array of cultures, from the whale-hunting, blanket-tossing peoples of the Arctic to the pueblo-building, basket-weaving peoples of the Southwest. Native Americans continue to be largely overlooked and misunderstood in our nation’s conversations about history, racism, and civil rights. Becoming acquainted through the small but growing shelf of children’s literature is a valuable step in the right direction.

A gorgeous array of cradleboards from various nations.

A gorgeous array of cradleboards from various nations.

All of the titles I chose for today happen to cover peoples from more northerly regions, from the Arctic stretching down through the Great Plains of Canada and the United States and across to the Eastern Woodlands. I hope you can find them in your libraries or bookshops.

dragonfly-kites-cover-imageDragonfly Kites (Pimithaagansa), written by Tomson Highway, illustrations by Julie Flett
published in 2016 by Fifth House

Canadian publishing houses are doing an amazing job of putting out gorgeous, well-crafted stories featuring First Nations characters, both historical and contemporary. Three of the 5 books I have for you today come out of Canada. Thank you, neighbors!

The vast, quiet, wild spaces of northern Manitoba are the summer home for Joe and Cody, two lucky boys whose days are filled with imaginative outdoor exploration.


Along with their faithful dog, Ootsie, the boys forge worlds from sticks and stone and string, adopt a wild tern, commune with chipmunks and eagles, and create delicate, iridescent kites with dragonflies and a large dose of gentleness.

Written in both English and Cree, I am telling you — this story tugs on my non-electronic heartstrings! What a lush life. Julie Flett is an award-winning artist, quite a favorite of so many of us, and her work here is spacious, elegant, pristine. I love this book! Ages 3 and up.

buffalo-bird-girl-cover-imageBuffalo Bird Girl: A Hidatsa Story, written and illustrated by S.D. Nelson
published in 2012 by Abrams Books for Young Readers

Buffalo Bird Girl was a child of the prairies, born in the 1830s to the Hidatsa people who lived in what is now North Dakota.

S.D. Nelson tells the story of her rich life and culture in this fascinating, beautiful book. The enormously-strong earth-mound lodges and grandmother’s hot, hearty breakfasts; the seasonal farm chores, buffalo hunting and favorite children’s games; the frightening attacks from the Lakota and the changes that came with the traders and missionaries.


All of this is told vividly, accompanied by Nelson’s captivating acrylic paintings, graphite drawings, and historic photographs. Each page is full of appeal while the story of this amazing woman’s life grabs hold of us, mesmerizes us straight through to her old age.


A lengthy Author’s Note provides extensive information about Buffalo Bird Woman, the Hidatsa people, and the clash of cultures that came with European arrivals. A timeline correlates her life with events from 5000 BCE to 2009. A fantastic read for ages 5 and up.

grandpas-girls-cover-imageGrandpa’s Girls, written by Nicola I. Campbell, illustrated by Kim LaFave
published in 2011 by Groundwood Books

Four cousins are charged with excitement! Because today they’re going to visit Grandpa!

Grandpa lives on an old farm, right alongside Hwy. 5 in British Columbia. There are chickens to squawk at, a root cellar to explore, and one lofty rope swing for sailing through the sweet, hay-scented air of the barn.

Best of all, there is Grandpa. A World War II vet. A cowboy, rancher, businessman. A storytelling, candy jar-keeping, memory-laden, wonderful man. No wonder these girls love to visit him!


This warm, family story is fully contemporary, with lighthearted illustrations conveying a sunny, casual vibe. A few words in the Interior Salish language — which my computer does not even have the characters to write! — are the only real clue that Grandpa and his girls are members of an indigenous people. I love finding books which portray the ordinary lives of contemporary Native Americans, and this one is an absolutely delightful example. Ages 2 and up.

fatty-legs-cover-imageFatty Legs: A True Story, written by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, illustrated by Liz Amini-Holmes
published in 2010 by Annick Press; 103 pages

Our most northerly story today is the brave, lamentable account of a little girl who lived with her dear family and Inuit community on “the scattered islands of the Arctic Ocean.”

Margaret Pokiak-Fenton spent her childhood on Banks Island, a five-day journey across open ocean from the mainland where small outposts perched along the coasts of Yukon Territory and Northwest Territories. By the time she was 8 years old, she had only traveled a few times to this outside world.

But her sister had been “plucked” like a fledgling from its nest by the outsiders, taken to be schooled in Aklavik, and had returned home with the magical knowledge of Reading. How Margaret longed to read! To read for herself the beautiful book called Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with its tantalizing rabbits and strange tunnels.


Margaret begs for years to be allowed to go to that school, but her parents vehemently forbid it. When she finally wears them down and begins school, it’s not the fairy-tale setting she expects, but a nightmare of abuse all too familiar to the thousands of Native children educated in boarding schools across the Americas.


Margaret’s daughter-in-law, Christy, has written this powerful memoir. It is a sorrowful page-turner about a resolute young girl, illustrated with strong, emotive illustrations and Pokiak-Fenton’s family photographs. We need to know these stories, hard as they are to bear. This one’s for ages 8 and up. The author has parsed out several episodes of this story in picture book format for younger children, if you’re interested.

when-the-shadbush-blooms-cover-imageWhen the Shadbush Blooms, written by Carla Messinger with Susan Katz, illustrated by David Kanietakeron Fadden
published in 2007 by Tricycle Press

The Lenni Lenape people lived in the forested lands in what is now the northeastern United States. If you live in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Connecticut, these were one of the First Peoples in your region.

Carla Messinger, a member of the Turtle Clan Lenape, has written a marvelously inventive account of her culture. Walking through the 12 months of the year, Traditional Sister and Contemporary Sister narrate the activities associated with the changing seasons.

The happenings remain constant, although these two live centuries apart. The dress, the look of the land, the means of farming, fishing, playing, preparing — these all vastly change as witnessed by the colorful, ingenuous illustrations. Each two-page spread features the traditional way of life on the left, morphing smoothly into the contemporary scene on the right. Brilliant!


Even the names of the months — each richly tied to the moon — are differentiated, with the Lenape language on the left and its translation into English on the right. An Afterword tells us more about traditional Lenape culture.


Again, I love seeing the contemporary lives of indigenous peoples. This book allows us to view both worlds. Read it and let your children discover the fascinating differences between the pages. Ages 3 and up.


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So many women are told their dreams “simply can’t be done.” Today, meet a drummer, a mathematician, a primatologist and others, who persisted and realized their dreams.

Plus a tribute to mothers: In our heart of hearts, we often feel overwhelmed at this epic task — nurturing healthy human beings for our world. Women’s History Month would not be complete without celebrating motherhood.

drum dream girl cover imageDrum Dream Girl:How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music, by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Rafael López
published in 2015 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Hot pepper oranges and Caribbean blues saturate the pages of this poetic celebration of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, the first female drummer in Cuba. As a young girl, the varied drums’ beats tantalized her, but it was taboo for women to play them.

drum dream girl illustration rafael lopez

Winner of the 2016 Pura Belpré Illustration Award, the gorgeous artwork in this book explodes with color and Cuban culture, while the text dances along lithely. Superb introduction to Millo, who became a world-famous drummer, and another example of the odd restrictions women have had to overcome with the help of a key insider. Ages 3 and up.

ada byron lovelace and the thinking machine cover imageAda Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine, by Laurie Wallmark, illustrated by April Chu
published in 2015 by Creston Books

Ada, daughter of the poet Lord Byron, was a brilliant mathematician. From childhood she was mesmerized by numbers and the inventions made possible by their calculations. Ada was a child of privilege, yet had to overcome family dysfunction, a crippling illness, and her society’s conviction that math was no place for a woman.


Wallmark’s introduction is intriguing and accessible, and Chu’s handsome artwork immerses us in Ada’s world. Read about the woman who wrote the first computer program with ages 5 and up.

paiute princess cover imagePaiute Princess: The Story of Sarah Winnemucca, written and illustrated by Deborah Kogan Ray
published in 2012 by Frances Foster Books, Farrar Straus Giroux

Sarah Winnemucca was not a princess. And her name was not really Sarah. Yet by assuming an identity the White world invented, she was able to wield her strengths for the good of her Paiute people.

This lengthy, fascinating account by award-winning author and illustrator Deborah Kogan Ray introduced me to an amazing person I had never heard of, who worked tirelessly for justice for the Paiute.

paiute princess illustration deborah kogan ray

She was a controversial figure, accepted fully by neither white culture nor her own people. I think that is often the case for peacemakers caught in the middle, searching for the best compromise this world offers. A beautiful, thought-provoking read for ages 8 and up.

irena's jars of secrets cover imageIrena’s Jars of Secrets, by Marcia Vaughan, illustrated by Ron Mazellan
published in 2011 by Lee & Low Books

Irena was a young Polish Catholic woman when World War II broke out and with horror she witnessed the beginnings of the Holocaust. As a social worker, she gained access to the Warsaw ghettos, smuggling in aid for two years until it became clear that Treblinka was in store for all who remained.

irena's jars of secrets illustration ron mazellan

Read the story of how this intrepid woman risked her life to smuggle 2500 children out to safety, and find out what role was played by two glass jars hidden under an apple tree. A riveting account with rich, atmospheric paintings, for ages 5 or 6 and up. Obviously, extermination camps are a part of this narrative, so use your judgement as to the appropriateness for young children.

florence nightingale cover imageFlorence Nightingale, written and illustrated by Demi
published in 2014 by Henry Holt and Company

Demi’s characteristically elegant treatment of her subjects turns here to Florence Nightingale, another child of privilege who used her life to benefit the poor and broken in the world.

florence nightingale interior by demi

Demi traces her life from her birth in Florence, Italy, (I never knew that is how she got her name!) through her calling as a young woman into nursing — an objectionable life for a proper lady, careful study of the care of patients, and blossoming as a leader and innovator in nursing care. It’s a brilliant account, never bogging down yet covering a vast amount of information, accompanied by intricate, appealing illustrations. An inspiration for ages 5 and up.

me...jane cove imageMe…Jane, written and illustrated by Patrick McDonnell
published in 2011 by Little, Brown and Company

This tender story tells of Jane Goodall’s childhood love of the great outdoors and all the wondrous natural world around her. The entire, sparkling account spins out just a few thoughts, like candy floss, magically endearing us to this dear girl, until with one turn of the last page, she is all grown up, living out her dream in Africa.

me...jane illustration patrick mcdonnell

Charming and engaging for children ages 2 and up, the story is followed by a bio written for ages 8 and up, and a wonderful, the watcher cover imagepersonal message from Jane about the opportunity for each of us to make a difference in our world. If you want to learn more about her, follow this up with another excellent account focusing more on her long work in Tanzania:

The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps, written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter, also published in 2011 by Schwartz & Wade and ideal for ages 3 and up.

lullaby for a black mother cover imageLullaby (for a Black Mother), by Langston Hughes, illustrated by Sean Qualls
published in 2013 by Harcourt Children’s Books

Langston’s dark-cherry sweet lullaby, a mother singing to her little dark baby, her little earth-thing, her little love-one, is marvelously illustrated in Sean Quall’s rhythmic, contemporary styling. Twilight purples and midnight blues infuse  the pages, anchored in strong shapes, textures, and inky blacks.

lullaby for a black mother illustration sean qualls

A note about Langston Hughes informs us about his sweet connection with words during a childhood of fractured relationships. Qualls conjectures about the comfort Hughes believed a mother’s lullaby could bring to a lonely boy. Read this with children ages 2 and up, and invent your own lullaby to speak your love.

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So many misconceptions about the frailty of women’s judgement, stamina, intellect have been invalidated over the years. What fallacies do you still encounter? Here are five more biographies to help set the record straight:

elizabeth started all the trouble cover imageElizabeth Started All the Trouble, by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Matt Faulkner
published in 2016 by Disney Hyperion

In 1840, Elizabeth Cady Stanton began her life-long fight for women’s rights. Organizing, writing, speaking, convening, she championed the cause, then passed the torch along to others, who inspired still others.

elizabeth started all the trouble interior rappaport and faulkner

One of the most scandalous, divisive, hard-earned rights Stanton and her colleagues campaigned for was the right for women to vote!  Ludicrous as it seems to us now, this was once an outrageous notion.

elizabeth started all the trouble illustration matt faulkner

Doreen Rappaport traces a lively narrative of suffragists and trailblazers in this fantastic new book. Matt Faulkner’s riveting compositions are packed with strong personalities. Highly recommended for ages 6 and up.

look up cover imageLook Up!: Henrietta Leavitt, Pioneering Woman Astronomer, by Robert Burleigh, illustrated by Raúl Colón
published in 2013, a Paula Wiseman Book, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Henrietta Leavitt thirsted for understanding about the stars in an era when astronomy was a field reserved almost exclusively for men. Her opportunities for using the best equipment were limited by her gender. Instead, she was assigned tedious work as a virtual human computer.

look up illustration raul colon

But that did not stop her from painstakingly studying on her own, leading to a monumental discovery. Read the story of the woman who was said to have “the best mind at the Harvard Observatory.” Another beautiful collaboration by Burleigh and Colón. Ages 5 and up.

dolores huerta cover imageDolores Huerta: A Hero to Migrant Workers, by Sarah Warren, illustrated by Robert Casilla
published in 2012 by Marshall Cavendish Children

Teacher, listener, friend. Organizer, defender, peacemaker. Dolores Huerta filled many roles in her work, campaigning on behalf of migrant workers in California.

dolores huerta illustration robert casilla

Raise your awareness of the unjust treatment of farm laborers and your gratitude for the calloused hands that put food on your table with this warm account of Huerta’s groundbreaking work. Ages 4 and up.

sacagawea cover imageSacagawea, by Liselotte Erdrich, artwork by Julie Buffalohead
published in 2003 by Carolrhoda Books

Kidnapped at age 12 and transported far from home. Adapting to a new language and culture. Married off, age 16, to a Frenchman. Volunteered by that husband for a strenuous, treacherous journey to be undertaken while she carried, birthed, and nursed her first-born.

sacagawea erdrich and buffalohead

Sacagawea is the subject of many biographies but I love this one for its humanizing rather than mythologizing of her and the handsome, dignified paintings by Ponca artist Julie Buffalohead. Ages 4 and up.

here come the girl scouts cover imageHere Come the Girl Scouts: The Amazing All-true Story of Juliette “Daisy” Gordon Low and Her Great Adventure, by Shana Corey, illustrated by Hadley Hooper
published in 2012 by Scholastic Press

Daisy was an adventurous soul from the time she was a small girl. As a young woman, she ditched dinner parties to go fishing and favored elephant riding to etiquette lessons.


At the age of 51, she launched the Girl Scout movement, championing a life of service, physical activity, conservation, respect, and full engagement in a juicy life for girls. Her story is fascinating, illustrated in a bold, jaunty style, peppered with Girl Scout maxims. A joyful treat for ages 5 and up.

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I love a good piece of historical fiction, especially when it’s covering new ground. These two books do an exceptional job of bringing us face-to-face with a couple of important individuals and whetting our appetites for further investigations of them and their worlds.

in the footsteps of crazy horse cover imageIn the Footsteps of Crazy Horse, by Joseph Marshall III, illustrations by Jim Yellowhawk
published in 2015 by Amulet Books

Native American kids lit occupies a much-too-small bookshelf, so I’m always elated when I discover another great title. I love this piece of historical fiction about the years of conflict between the Lakota people and the U.S. government for a number of reasons.

Foremost, of course, is the access it gives us and our kids to a Native voice speaking about American history. If you have never read this crazyhorseperspective before, I think you will find your brain actually jarred — it’s that impactful. Since the Native side of the story is virtually absent from almost all of our texts, unless you’ve sought out writings like Dee Brown’s classic Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, you are likely utterly unaware of these realities. In this respect, Marshall’s book should be one that you purpose to read with kids ages 9 or 10 and up.

The book is structured around a contemporary Lakota boy and his grandfather taking a road trip through parts of South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Montana to see historic sites associated with their hero, Crazy Horse. This provides a fresh, current atmosphere, with the narrative jumping back and forth between modern America and the American West of the 1800s. Great move. Tying the history to geography rather than proceeding in a strictly chronological fashion can be a tiny bit confusing if you don’t pay attention, but I really like the way it elevates the importance of the land.

bighorn mountains

Another excellent choice is having Grandfather’s storytelling be the means of educating both Jimmy, his grandson, and us on the history of the Lakota people and Crazy Horse’s epic leadership. Each time Grandfather launches into one of his accounts, passing down the stories he heard from his grandfather, I found myself falling into another time and place. 

The Battle of Little Bighorn, by Kicking Bear

The Battle of Little Bighorn, by Kicking Bear

Included is a helpful map and a lengthy glossary. Highly recommended.

the detective's assistant cover imageThe Detective’s Assistant, by Kate Hannigan
published in 2015 by Little Brown and Company

In this book bursting with mysteries, secrets, adventures, and spies, you’ll meet up with Allan Pinkerton and his crack, female detective, Kate Warne; Abraham Lincoln; gangs of bloodthirsty conspirators; Underground Railway operators; and a spunky little orphan named Nell. It’s a zesty amalgamation of historical elements from mid-1800s American history.

The story is told by Nell, who has recently and tragically lost all the members of her family. She arrives in Chicago on the doorstep of her unwelcoming Aunt Kate. In fact, Kate is so averse to taking her in, Nell quickly dubs her The Pickled Onion. That sour.

pinkerton prive eye

There’s a reason for Kate’s prickly behavior: She’s the first ever female detective, working in various disguises for Pinkerton’s Detective Agency, and having a youngster tagging along is not especially conducive to secrecy. Besides, Kate bears an enormous grudge towards Nell’s dad due to one dark, bitter moment in the past.

civil war era gownsWhile Kate and Nell together catch criminals including those who would take Abraham Lincoln’s life, Nell searches to understand the shadows hanging over her dad, as well as the cryptic letters from her best friend who recently fled to Canada.

It’s a fast-paced, pleasurable read, with bold seams of feminism, for ages 9 and up that will open the doors to learning more about lincoln's spymaster cover imageseveral aspects of history. For those curious about the Pinkerton agency, you might turn to Lincoln’s Spymaster: Allan Pinkerton, America’s First Private Eye, by Samantha Seiple, published in 2015 (Scholastic Press), 196 pages. It’s a fascinating read, but be aware that numerous hangings and killings are grimly depicted.

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I’m getting a jump on Thanksgiving this year in hopes of giving you time to track down these lovely titles before the holiday (with apologies to my Canadian friends!)

thanks a million cover imageThanks a Million, poems by Nikki Grimes, illustrations by Cozbi A. Cabrera
published in 2006 by Greenwillow Books

For Nikki Grimes, the words, “thank you” are powerful. They not only bless the ones we thank, but they arise from deep places inside us as we recognize gifts we’ve been given.

We can be thankful for new friends who make us feel less like lonely strangers, for an author whose story comforts our thanks a million illustration cozbi a. cabrera 001unspoken wounds, for kind neighbors, for shelter even when that shelter is bleak. We can thank people who seem to shrug off our thanks, or our dad whose gesture of love we took for granted. Praise comes from the very trees, from those who cannot speak, and from all of us around the Thanksgiving table.

Grimes’ poems are brief, widely varied in structure,  accessible to children ages 4 or 5 and up, yet richly human and authentic.  They are written in the voices of children, but these children are thoughtful, perceptive, acknowledging the realities of a broken world that is still good, recognizing the wealth of love and friendship.

Cozbi Cabrera’s acrylic paintings are strong, vibrant, anchored in the real world, augmenting the thrumming pulse of life that runs through this book, thoroughly multi-cultural. Beautiful. No puny, saccherine thanks here. Highly recommended.

nickommoh cover imageNickommoh! A Thanksgiving Celebration, by Jackie French Koller, illustrated by Marcia Sewall
published in 1999 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

As you perhaps know, the Narragansett people were one of the tribes of Native Americans who for long years lived in the area we now call New England, and who welcomed the Pilgrims, helping them survive their crash course in North American living when they arrived in 1620.

What most of us have remained ignorant of is the rich culture of this people and the thanksgiving celebrations which were woven into their society. Jackie French Koller has worked with Dr. Ella Sekatau, Tribal Ethnohistorian of the Narragansett Indian Tribe, to bring us nickommoh by jackie french koller and marcia sewallthis fascinating, gorgeous account of a typical thanksgiving feast in the Narragansett tradition. Nickommoh is a word meaning “give away” or “exchange” and was used for these gatherings due to the custom of giving away excess food, furs, and clothing to those in need during these harvest celebrations.

The frost coats the fields, the people in their mocussinass come from far and near, lodges are built, games are played, venison and clams and berry cakes are cooked. Old and young prepare for the great dance. The Creator and Life-giver is praised. In poetic, graceful prose, stuffed with interesting detail and sprinkled with Narragansett words, Koller draws us into their lively, creative, gladsome festival which likely was an influence in the original Pilgrim thanksgiving celebration.

Marcia Sewall’s striking illustations are rendered in scratchboard and gouache. Bold, handsome black outlining and an earthy palette of bark browns, golden maize, splashes of clay-reds, plus the brilliant blue  ocean and star-studded night skies make incredibly handsome images. They generate a rich sense of community and happiness and connection with the land. Such beautiful work!

An Author’s Note and glossary of Narragansett words complete this excellent addition to your Thanksgiving reading list. Ages 4 and up.

sarah gives thanks cover imageSarah Gives Thanks, by Mike Allegra, illustrated by David Gardner
published in 2012 by Albert Whitman & Company

Sarah Josepha Hale is largely responsible for you having an official Thanksgiving Day holiday. She’s also responsible for turning Mount Vernon into a National Historic Landmark, fighting against slavery, and writing a poem I bet every one of you knows by heart. If you haven’t met her yet, it’s high time you do!

In 1822, Sarah was a young widow and mother of five living in New Hampshire. She had hankered for education since she was a child, and not being allowed to attend college (why would women want to sarah gives thanks illustration david gardnerdo such a thing?!) she educated herself by reading and reading and reading some more. She was a published writer early in her married life and went on to become editor of the most widely read magazine in the country where she promoted her wonderfully feminist views. If you were around in the mid-1800s, you probably knew of Sarah.

So, when this ball-of-fire determined we should have a national holiday devoted to appreciating what we have and giving thanks for it, you just know she’s not going to quit until it’s in place. It took her thirty-six years to get that final signature from President Lincoln himself, but Sarah did it. She was thankful, and so am I!

I believe it was last year I reviewed another title about Sarah Hale which you can read here. Both of these are outstanding accounts of her life. This one is beautifully illustrated in rich watercolors with paper texture showing through. The compositions are engaging and lively, with a bit of humor, lovely period detail, and a gently aging Sarah. It’s a splendid book for ages 4 and up. 

thanksgiving at our house cover image2 001Thanksgiving At Our House, written and illustrated by Wendy Watson
published in 1991 by Clarion Books

This jolly family is about to celebrate Thanksgiving. The relatives are coming, so they’re busy scouring the house, ironing party clothes, making place cards, and roasting a huge turkey.thanksgiving at our house illustration wendy watson 001

As batches of visitors arrive, the day fills up with cousins everywhere,  pies and pies, singing grace, taking naps, and playing outdoors in the first snowflakes of the season.

Wendy Watson brings us a lighthearted, tradition-filled, large family holiday in this little charmer. Bits of story are interspersed with snippets of nursery rhyme and poems that twinkle-toe along as sweet and delicious as whipped cream on warm apple pie. Darling, warmhearted pictures with oodles to look at will put a smile on the face of young listeners, ages 3 and up.

hardscrabble harvest cover imageHard Scrabble Harvest, written and illustrated by Dahlov Ipcar
published in 1976 by Doubleday & Company

Awhile back I wrote a blog post about Dahlov Ipcar and her imaginative, colorful artwork and children’s books, such rich gifts to us arising from her creativity,  long life of connection with the land, and broad experimentation with line and color and artforms.

Here’s one more of her titles that’s perfect for sharing at Thanksgiving. Dahlov knew full well the hardscrabble work of farm life, yet she loved it just the same. Stemming from her hardscrabble harvest illustration dahlov ipcarexperiences working the Maine farmstead with her husband and sons, this joyful book begins with the long odds of the farmer, planting his garden, then desperately trying to protect his growing vegetables from all the critters licking their lips in anticipation! From crows to raccoons to rabbits, nibbling here, thieving there, it’s an uphill battle!

Still, as harvest-time comes, there are bushels of apples and tomatoes to haul in, wagonloads of pumpkins and squashes to store, jellies to put up, turkeys to fatten, and a beautiful Thanksgiving dinner to share with the relatives. 

Ipcar’s masterful compositions and patterning are compelling, energetic, full of life and joy and the richness of the earth. With brief, rhyming text and bold illustrations, it’s a timeless book for sharing with small persons ages 2 and older.




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I’ve stumbled on a simply gorgeous book, coming out of Canada, which I want to highlight today.

wild berries cover image julie flettWild Berries = Pikaci-Minisa, written and illustrated by Julie Flett
published in 2013 by Simply Read Books

Oh, I love this book, for many reasons.

First, there are far too few books centered in the world of the First Peoples. This is a painful gap in our children’s literature. Furthermore, the vast majority of what I’ve seen focuses on memories of former times, and while that is rich and important, the absence of stories entwining these cultures with current, ordinary life, is troubling.  We need to do better, and this stunning book is exactly what I’m looking for.

Second, c’mon! it’s about picking wild blueberries! It’s the graceful, quiet, blueberries from wikipediastory of a boy and his grandmother out in the beauty of the woods, finding those plump,

My grandma and her beloved blueberries!

My grandma and her beloved blueberries!

purplish-blue, sweet-tart glories. As a little girl, I picked wild blueberries with my grandmother — the pluckiest, most devoted blueberry-picker there ever was. She made a blueberry pie to die for, bursting with tiny, juicy berries; purple treakly sweetness trickling out of a buttery, flaky, sugar-crisp crust. Mmmmmmmm! At our cabin on Lake Vermilion, wild berries polka-dot the shrubby underlayer beneath towering pines, and we pick as many as we can while beating off the biting ants, to fill our Swedish pancakes and munch by the handful. So — wild blueberry picking is right up my alley, as well as grandmothers, of course.

wild berries illustration julie flett from simplyreadbooks dot comThird — the artwork is incredible. Hushed by white space, and elegant in its compositions, lines, and color palette of mossy greens, bittersweet chocolates, and warm splashes of persimmon. Beautiful, striking, simplicity.

Fourth — Flett, who is Cree-Métis herself, includes Cree translations of just over a dozen key words as we walk through the book, one on each page. Blueberries are ininimina in wild berries illustration by julie flettthis dialect, for example. A pronunciation guide is included. I am intrigued by languages, and the Native American languages are especially poignant to see in print. These key words are set in a beautiful type font which adds to the grace of the pages.

Fifth — there’s a recipe for wild blueberry jam. Perfect.

blueberry mint jam from afarmgirlsdabbles dot comAs you can tell, I’m smitten with this little book and hope you’ll find a copy to enjoy with children ages 2 and up, or just for your own indulgence.


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jim thorpe original all american cover imageJim Thorpe: Original All-American, by Joseph Bruchac

Best of all, though, was another game I had never seen or heard of before.  It was called football.  I loved it from the first moment I saw it.

Football had only come to Haskell two years before, but our team was already real good.  They played a schedule of six games, which was all they could get.  It was hard for the other teams, none of which was all-Indian like ours, to keep up with us.  All of us had been running and playing rough games since we were little, so we were always stronger and in better shape than most of those non-Indian teams.  And I think some of them were afraid of us because we were “wild Indians.”

That’s one reason why I got so excited about the rumor that went around the school one January day…”The Carlisle Indians are a-coming.”  The Carlisle Indians weren’t a tribe, but they were real Indians all right, and they were our heroes.  They were the football team from the United States Indian IndustrialJim_Thorpe_football School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.  The best football team of all…They were so strong, they beat the best white college teams.  It was like all the old warriors…had come back to life in those young men from all the different tribes who stepped out onto the football field to do battle.  They made us proud.

Jim Thorpe, one of the world’s all-time great athletes, was born into the Sac and Fox tribe in 1887, in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma).  From the start, he was a vigorously athletic boy, and just as fiercely stubborn.  Running, riding horseback, shooting his bow — this is what delighted him.

As a young boy, Jim was placed in a school by his father where he was introduced to the athletics that would change his life.  One of the most versatile athletes ever, Jim took an immediate liking to baseball, track, basketball, and football.  Eventually he was recruited by the Carlisle School in Pennsylvania.  This school was an incredible, athletic powerhouse, and Jim had just the sort of outstanding potential they wanted.  jim thorpe at the 1912 OlympicsAmong his other feats, under the coaching of Pop Warner, Jim became a legendary football star.  At the same time, he began breaking records in numerous track and field events.  Thorpe went to the Olympics in Sweden in 1912, winning both the pentathalon and the decathalon.  All his life, he made these tremendous accomplishments amid the painful realities of prejudice and abysmal treatment of Native Americans.

After the Olympics, some of the most difficult events of Thorpe’s life occurred, culminating in his being stripped of his Olympic medals. They were re-awarded to him, his name returned to the Olympic record books, thirty years after his death.

Joseph Bruchac has written a compelling story of Jim Thorpe’s life, anchored in the influence of his family and culture on his life, and providing a front-row seat to Thorpe’s enthusiasm for sport and incredible accomplishments.  Using Thorpe’s own voice in his first-person narration, Bruchac draws us into the high-energy, competitive,  family-centered, humorous manThorpe-at-bat from hittingjackit dot com that Thorpe was.  Sports-lovers in particular will enjoy the play-by-play accounts of Thorpe’s football career at Carlisle and wish they could witness in person the jaw-dropping dominance of that team!  Beyond the athleticism, the story also stings with the racism and ill-treatment experienced by Native Americans — a history far under-told in our children’s literature.

An Author’s Note summarizes Thorpe’s life after the Olympics as well as briefly accounting for numerous other athletes we meet in the story. A number of historic photographs are included, as well as a nice annotated bibliography for those wanting to explore these topics further.  Note that this story is fictionalized only in that Bruchac put the story in Thorpe’s voice.  Ages 9 and up; obviously this book holds great appeal to many boys.

Here’s the Amazon link:  Jim Thorpe, Original All-American

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