Monday, December 5, 2016

Multicultural Children's Book Day - Meet the Co-Hosts



Since it's inception, I've been participating as a children's book reviewer every January 27th for Multicultural Children's Book Day and I have seen it grow by leaps and bounds. So I was pretty excited when I was asked to be a co-host this year. Multicultural Children's Book Day was started in 2014 by Valerie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom as a way of celebrating diversity in children's books. It's mission has always been to "not only raise awareness for the kid's books that celebrate diversity, but to get more of these books into classrooms and libraries." 

But, we all know it takes a village and MCCBD would not be the success it has been without our wonderful sponsors - publishers and authors alike.  This year, we are welcoming a new sponsor, Scholastic Press, and we are thrilled to have their support.
You can find out more about all of our author and publisher sponsors and how to become one HERE. But hurry, the deadline to be included is December 31, 2016.

Calling All Readers:

Are you interested in receiving a FREE multicultural children's book to review for MCCBD 2017? We have a new perk this year and you don't have to be a blogger to participate. Of course, if you have a blog, you can still post your review there, but now readers will have the option to post on these social media platforms: Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. You can find out how to be part of this amazing day HERE

We are a nation of beautifully diverse people, of immigrants from all over the world and Multicultural Children's Book Day celebrates that diversity, stressing the importance of all children finding themselves reflected in the books they read, but also offering a window into other cultures, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and disabilities that may be different from our own. Diverse books can help foster understanding, acceptance, and hope in our children now and for the future.

As with any event, success is measured by the strength and effectiveness of the team. MCBD's CoHosts are an example of just that.

The Multicultural Children’s Book Day CoHosts are a group of powerhouse bloggers and parents who all share the same passion for reading and understand the importance of diversity in children’s literature. They also act as ambassadors for MCBD’s yearly event by assisting in spreading the word, extending the event’s reach through social media and acting as hosts sites for the wildly popular book review/blog post link-up that occurs on the actual day of the holiday (1/27/17).


We are proud to introduce our sixteen CoHosts for our 2017 event below. These writers, moms, reviewers, book lovers and thought leaders were selected by the MCBD team because of their true dedication to supporting diversity in children’s literature and we would appreciate if you could take a few minutes and visit each of these excellent blogs and say "hello."

A Crafty Arab:
Kay Tarapolsi is a Libyan American artist who creates are to promote a positive image of Arab culture. Kay creates handmade Arab, Farsi and Urdu crafts and Cards. Check out her wares on Zibbet ( www.ACraftyArab.zibbet.com), Amazon, Etsy or select stores in Seattle, WA, Dearborn, MI, and Washington, DC.  The Arabic Alphabet Animal Poster became an idea back in 2002 when Kay received an alphabet poster (in English) by Jill M. Schmidt, a published illustrator of children's books. Kay realized there was a need for an Arabic poster that was bright, fun and colorful and began working with Jill in 2010 to create this product line. Kay teaches Arab art education to various schools in the Pacific Northwest and has been an artist in residence in several summer camps.

Connect with Kay on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+

All Done Monkey:
Leanna is a stay at home mother of two sweet, funny, rambunctious boys and a sweet baby girl! She draws inspiration from the writings of the Bahá'í Faith and tries to raise her Monkeys in a fun, spiritual, loving environment.  She and her husband, who is from Costa Rica, are raising their boys to be bilingual and bicultural but more importantly to be "world citizens." All Done Monkey is dedicated to sharing this journey with you!  All Done Monkey focuses on multiculturalism, children's education, natural parenting, and spiritual education.  Leanna is the co-founder of Bahá'í Mom Blogs and the founder of Multicultural Kid Blogs.

Connect with Leanna on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+


Books My Kids Read:
Michelle is a parent of two girls and a lover of all things children's
literature. Her blog was born out of a need to find appropriate reading
material for her advanced reader and has turned into a place to share
interesting books that her family has found. Michelle's passion about
multicultural children's literature stems from the fact that she is raising her
girls to be Jewish in a community where they are in a complete minority. In
addition, she loves finding books with really strong female characters who
stand up to outdated traditions. When not blogging, Michelle writes for a
local magazine, teaches Hebrew school, and share her love of books by being and independent consultant for Usborne Books & More.

Connect with Michelle on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram

Crafty Moms Share:

Carrie is a former high school math teacher and diversity club leader. Now, she uses her expertise to write about her adventures with her daughter, review books, and products, and share information. Crafty Moms Share is a place where Carrie share her ideas, knowledge and more and hosts link parties to allow others to share as well. She is a member of Multicultural Kid Blogs and a believer that we are all equal and need to be respected for our differences as well as out similarities.

Connect with Carrie on Facebook, Pinterest, Google+

Colours of Us:
Svenja is an adoptive mom and social worker, originally from Germany, living in South Africa. As a mom of a little African girl she always searches for multicultural children's books that have a positive message, and that do not support stereotypes. She shares her findings on her website, Colours of Us. Svenja is passionate about promoting diversity in children's literature and toys. She believes that all children deserve to see themselves reflected in the books they read and the toys they play with - because representation matters!

Connect with Svenja on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+

The Educators' Spin On It:
Kim Vij is a certified teacher with over 20 years of experience using her Bachelor's Degree in Early Childhood Education. She moved from the traditional classroom to raise her 3 children and to be an advocate for early childhood education using a much larger platform online. She's an organizer of the Virtual Book Club for Kids and coauthor of the popular website The Educators' Spin On It. When she is not creating or pinning ideas for kids for their 1.6 million Pinterest followers, you will often find Kim speaking at events, hosting twitter chats or discussing with a friend at a play date about how to help their child learn with developmentally appropriate strategies. Here's how you can join her weekly Virtual Book Club.

Connect with Kim on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest

Amanda Boyarshinov is a National Board Certified teacher with oodles of experience in early childhood education. She holds a bachelor's degree in elementary education and a master's degree in Reading for grades K-12. You will often find her in her backyard exploring nature with her kids or doing a hands-on science project at the kitchen table. She loves to walk her dog and snuggling up with a good book when she isn't elbow deep in baking blueberry muffins in the kitchen. She shares educational activities for children ages 0-7 at The Educators' Spin On It. Here are some of her tips on building a diverse bookshelf.

Connect with Amanda on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram

Explore Amanda and Kim's newly published book, 100 Fun & Easy Learning Games for Kids: Teach Reading, Writing, Math and More with Fun Kid Activities.

Franticmommy:

Becky Flansburg is a blogger and Virtual Assistant from Minnesota who writes about parenthood topics and moms in business. As Project Manager for Multicultural Children's Book Day, blogger, WAHM, and freelance writer, Becky knows being a mom is The.Best.Thing.Ever and Team Family is #1. Her goal with Franticmommy is to provide tips, ideas, products and services to help other women realize their dreams of business ownership while also sharing the "holy crap' moments of parenthood and life.

Connect with Becky on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram

Growing Book by Book:

Jodie Rodriguez has a passion for helping caregivers nurture our youngest readers. As a former National Board Certified early-childhood, elementary teacher and administrator, she has worked with thousands of families and educators providing the best literacy practices. She lives near St. Louis, Missouri and now stays home with her two young sons. She is the creator/founder of Growing Book by Book, where you will find book lists, book related activities and literacy tips and tricks for kids ages 0-8 years old.

Connect with Jodie on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest 

Imagination Soup:

Melissa Taylor, MA, is an education expert and Pinterest influencer as well as a mother, teacher, and freelance writer. She writes and award-winning learning blog, Imagination Soup, and freelances for publications online and in print, including Sylvan Learning, Random House, USA Today Health, The Writer, and Scholastic Parent and Child.  Connect with Melissa on

Connect with Melissa on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+

Kid World Citizen:
Becky Morales started Kid World Citizen as a way to share ideas from her classroom and activities that she did with her kids. Becky is and adoptive mom and the cultures in her household include Mexico, China, Ethiopia, and African American, but she has expanded the blog to include cultures from around the world. Becky loves meeting other globally-minded parents and teachers and sharing ideas to expose kids to world cultures. She has also written a book to help teachers and homeschoolers increase global learning with their kids (and in it, there is a booklist of over 300+ excellent multicultural titles for elementary learners).

Connect with Becky on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+

Mama Smiles:

MaryAnne was raised in five countries on three continents. She currently lives in California with her husband and their four children. MaryAnne blogs at Mama Smiles about building a rewarding family life through mindful parenting and educational and creative family activities. MaryAnne has a Masters in Education and PhD in medicine. She enjoys freelance writing and photography.

Connect with MaryAnne on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+

Multicultural Kid Blogs:
Multicultural Kid Blogs is a supportive community which brings together parents, educators, bloggers, writers and artists from across the world. Our mission is to inspire and support parents, caregivers, educators raising the next generation of global citizens through arts, activities, crafts, food, language, and love. We do this by creating educational and parenting content which celebrates global cultures, languages and belief systems and by promoting diversity in all its forms while recognizing our common concerns and dreams for our children.

Connect with Multicultural Kid Blogs on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+

Randomly Reading:

Alex Baugh is a former 4th grade classroom teacher and homeschooler with one Kiddo. She is also on a children's book award granting committee, where they read over 6,000 books a year. Alex's experience has made her very aware of the responsibility we all have when it comes to the multicultural content of children's literature and she shares that in every blog post she writes for Randomly Reading.

Connect with Alex on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+

The Jenny Evolution:

The Jenny Evolution is a parenting lifestyle blog focused on topics moms care about. From important parenting tips to family meals to simple kid activities, moms want information they can immediately use and have fun with. The Jenny Evolution is focused on articles that enrich family life without making it complicated...because who has time for that?

Connect with Jenny on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+


The Logonauts:
Katie is a life-long reader and enjoys ensnaring others in the web of life-long reading. As a traveler, photographer, and former archaeologist, she has visited four five continents (honeymoon in Morocco!), numerous countries, and 41 of the 50 US states. She loves introducing her students to the wider world and fostering their excitement about other countries and cultures. Lononaut is a word invented by Katie and three of her pre-service teacher colleagues while creating a unit on vocabulary-building and word roots. It has as its roots logo (Greek for word and naut (Greek for ship or nautae, Latin for sailor): word sailor. In their estimation then, a logonaut is someone who sails on the sea of words and shares an appreciation and love of the power of words and language.

Connect with Katie on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+ 

Youth Literature Reviews:
Katie Meadows is a mother, wife, and book lover from the Pacific Northwest. As a bookseller, Katie spent years helping children, parents, and educators find the perfect book. In 2012, she launched Youth Literature Reviews, a blog that features book reviews and carefully curated book lists for children of all ages, from babies to teens.

Connect with Katie on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Picture Book Roundup for Native American Heritage Month

Whenever I do a picture book roundup, I try to always use books from the library, or if I already own the book, I check to make sure it is available to borrow around the country.  I do this for a reason - once upon a time, very early in my blogging career, I reviewed a book I just loved only to discover it was no longer available to buy or borrow - except from one library in Florida and libraries in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.

Then, for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month last May, I made it a point to read only books written about the Asian American experience by authors who were themselves Asian American and that were available in the library. I found that a lot of the books I wanted to read were just not easily available even though they appeared on lots of lists recommending them.

For Native American Heritage Month, the situation was no different. Lots of recommendations for hard to find books that looked really interesting. Luckily, all public libraries can do inter-library loans and the books below are available in libraries around the country.

Legends:
Chukfi Rabbit's Big, Bad Bellyache: A Trickster's Tale 
told by Greg Rodgers, illustrated by Leslie Stall Widener
Cinco Punto Press, 2014, 40 pages, age 5+
Chukfi Rabbit is a wily rabbit. He's a lazy boy, but he sure does like to eat. So when Ms. Shukata Possum needs a new house, she asked her friends to help, promising dinner with fresh homemade butter after the work is done. Well, Chukfi Rabbit loves butter, but he does not like working. Can he find a way to eat that tempting homemade butter without doing any work? Remember, he's a trickster. Chukfi Rabbit is an old Choctaw tale was discovered among Choctaw interviews in the Oral History Archives at the Oklahoma History Center by Greg Rodgers while he was doing other research. This is a trickster tale that will bring a smile to anyone reading it even as it teaches an important lesson about being a good neighbor. And a real feeling of authenticity permeates it in the Choctaw names of the animals, the clothing they wear and the food the food they eat. Widener's detailed illustrations are all expressively depicted in a soft pastel palette. Author and illustrator both members of the Choctaw Nation. 

Rabbit's Snow Dance, a traditional Iroquois story
told by James & Joseph Bruchac, illustrated by Jeff Newman
Dial BFYR, 2012, 32 pages, age 4+
It's summertime and long-tailed Rabbit is longing to be able to eat the tasty leaves and buds that grow on the tops of trees. But how to reach them? Rabbit decides to make it snow by singing his special snow song, after all, it always brings snow in the winter when he sings it. Taking his drum into the forest, Rabbit drums, dances and sings "I will make it snow,/AZIKANAPO!" and sure enough, flakes being to fall. So Rabbit keeps singing and dancing and the snow piles up higher and higher until at last, he can reach the tops of the trees. But now Rabbit was really tired from all that singing, dancing, and drumming, so he decides to take a nap in the treetop before he eats. But remember, it's summer so while he naps, the snow melts away.  What a surprise Rabbit has when he wakes up and steps off the tree branch expecting snow.  As he falls, bits of his tail get caught in the tree branches, and he lands a short-tailed rabbit. This is another trickster rabbit tale, although there is no explanation about its origin. It's a fun read aloud and the stylized watercolor, gouache and illustrations are a whimsical as the rabbit's antics. The Bruchacs, father and son, are of Abenaki heritage, a tribe of Algonquian-speaking people in the northeastern part of North America. 

Fiction:
Hungry Johnny by Cheryl Minnema, illustrated by Wesley Ballinger
Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2014, 32 pages, age 4+
Young Johnny sure does like to eat, especially after playing outside in the snow. Going home, he tells his Grandma "I like to EAT, EAT, EAT." Grandma is cooking, and there's even fruit and sweet rolls, but Johnny has to wait to eat. There is a community feast that evening they will be going to. Waiting is hard for a hungry boy, but after a long drive, there is "a l-o-n-g [Ojibwe] prayer," then the elders must eat first. Finally is it time for Johnny and Grandma to sit at the long community table, but just as he gets ready to eat, Johnny sees his Grandma's very old friend Katherine come arrive. Johnny knows just what to do - he jumps up and offers his chair to Katherine, telling her "it's time to EAT, EAT, EAT."  Johnny may want to EAT, EAT, EAT, but by the time he sits down at the table, he has learned some important lessons about thankfulness, patience and respect, thanks to his loving Grandma. Cheryl Minnema and Wesley Ballinger are both members of the Milles Lacs Band of Ojibwe.

Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith,
illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu
Morrow Junior Books, 2000, 32 pages, age 4+
More than anything, Jenna would like to jingle dance at the next pow-wow just like her Grandma Wolfe.  She practiced and practiced and Grandma Wolfe even said Jenna could dance Girls. Which would be wonderful except there just wasn't enough time to mail-order the tins for rolling jingles so Jenna's dance wouldn't sing like her Grandma's. Unless...Visiting different women and relatives in her intertribal community, Jenna manages to borrow enough jingles for her dress and dedicates her dance to each woman who helped her. This is a lovely intergenerational story about an important shared tradition in Jenna's family. The language of the story is as lyrical as the beautifully done full color watercolor illustrations. Leitich Smith has incorporated some interesting cultural elements of Jenna's life as a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, expanding them in her not-to-be-skipped-over Author's Note at the end of the story, along with a Glossary for unfamiliar words. Like Jenna, Cynthia Leitich Smith is also member of the Muscogee Creek Nation.

Saltypie, a Choctow Journey from Darkness into Light 
by Tim Tingle, illustrated Karen Clarkson
Cinco Puntos Press, 2010, 32 pages, age 6+
Saltypie is Tim Tingle's homage to his strong, loving grandmother and how she faced the difficulties and problems she encountered, and passed that on to her family. A member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, in 1915, his Mawmaw moved to Texas with her husband and 2 year old son. One morning Mawmaw was standing on the porch of their house, when she was hit in the head with a rock by a boy she never saw coming, simply because she was Indian. Bleeding, her 2 year old son, thought the blood looked like the sweet filling of his mother's cherry pie, but tasted like "saltypie" instead. Saltypie became the word that helped the family deal with trouble, "Sometimes you don't know where the trouble comes from. You just kinda shrug it off, say saltypie. It helps you carry on." I thought the subtitle of this story has a nice double meaning. It is Tim's journey from darkness to light about his grandmother's life, and his grandmother's journey from darkness to light after she has surgery to gives her her sight back - lost years ago to a disease. 

I had read Saltypie in Tingle's collection of stories about the Choctaw people (a book I highly recommend and in fact, I think I will revisit it this week), but I don't think any of the original feeling was lost in turning it into a picture book. It is complimented by Karen Clarkson's softly painted illustrations that really capture all the emotions of the family on each page, but especially the last image of Mawmaw, whose eyes are open for the first time since that fateful morning in 1915. 

Toby and the Secret Code, A Choctaw Adventure by Una Belle Townsend
illustrated by Gwen Coleman Lester
Doodle and Peck Publishing, 2016, 32 pages, age 6+
As he reads his class report, Toby couldn't be prouder of his hero and namesake, his great-great-grandfather, Tobias Frazier. Tobias Frazier was one of 19 Choctaw soldiers in World War I who helped the US Army by using the Choctaw language to create a secret code, one the enemy couldn't figure out. When Toby's friend Charlie said he wished they could have a secret code like the code talkers, Toby offered to teach him some Choctaw worlds. Toby's grandfather, Papa Tobe, even helped them with pronunciation, as the boys played soldiers with walkie-talkies. One morning, when Toby arrived at his grandfather's fishing hole, he found Papa Tobe on the ground, hurt and muttering in Choctaw. Luckily, Toby could now understand what he was saying and was able to get help for him quickly. Toby never would have saved his grandfather if he hadn't been inspired by his WWI hero and code talker. This is a nice intergenerational story about a part of Choctaw history that is not well know. There are lots of basic Choctaw words with pronunciation for young readers to learn, including colors, numbers and days of the week. There is also a Glossary, a list of the 19 code talkers, including Tobias Frazier, and websites for more information about the Choctaw Nation. Illustrator Gwen Coleman Lester is a member of the Choctaw Nation.

Nonfiction:
Crazy Horse's Vision by Joseph Bruchac, illustrated by S.D. Nelson
Lee & Low, 2006, 40 pages, age 6+
As a boy, Crazy Horse was called Curly because of his curly hair. And although he was small, he was a natural leader among the other Lakota boys, always reminding them to be brave. By the time he was 13 years old, Curly had already tamed a wild horse, and killed his first buffalo, giving it's meat to those who could not hunt for themselves. After witnessing a terrible fight between the Lakota and the nearby white soldiers, in which the Lakota leader was killed, Curly decided he needed a vision to guide him. Without telling anyone what he was doing, and without the proper preparation, Curly left the Lakota camp, riding into the hills. There he fasted and prayed, until he had as vision that gave him the guidance he sought for his life, and hearing the word "keep nothing for yourself." Though his father was angry at him for defying tradition, when Curly told him about his vision three years later, his father gave his son his name, Crazy Horse after interpreting his vision. I found this to be an excellent work for understanding both the idea of Lakota naming traditions and the practice of the vision quest. The illustrations are sweepingly beautiful and at the same time, very personal. They are somewhat stylized, and readers would do well to read both the Author's Note about Crazy Horse's life and the Illustrator's Note about his choice of styles. color, and texture as they relate to his Native American heritage. S.D. Nelson is a member of the Standing Rock Sioux.

There is a Teacher's Guide for Crazy Horse's Vision available from publisher, Lee & Low.

Buffalo Song by Joseph Bruchac, illustrated by Bill Farnsworth
Lee & Low, 2014, 40 pages, age 7+
Coming up a herd of buffalo that had been killed by white hunters, a Nez Perce man and his son discover one buffalo calf still living. Taking it back to the camp of Walking Coyote and his wife Mary. They have been trying to save any surviving calves from destroyed herds, but now must take them to the priests at St. Ignatius Mission for their good pastureland. After a harrowing journey over treacherous terrain, they arrive at the mission but the priests refuse to take the small buffalo herd. Eventually, the herd is sold to a Mexican/Piegan rancher, Michel Pablo who is trying to bring back the buffalo herd to its former glory. Buffalo Song is a poignant story that is actually based on the efforts of the real Walking Coyote and Michel Pablo. As white settlers crossed the great plains, buffalo were killed en masse for their tongue meat and hides (something not really made clear in the book), and then left to rot until they became an endangered species. Be sure to read Afterword to learn about early efforts to save the buffalo. Bill Farnsworth's gauzily painted illustrations in a palette of earth tones add much to the story.

I had put in library requests for three more picture books for Native American Heritage Month, but they didn't get here yet.  They are all books I have read and would recommend:

Native American Heritage Month may be over for 2016, but there are so many good Native American stories that you don't need to confine your reading to one month a year. Here is a PDF to download with some suggestions from Dr. Debbie Reese and the First Nations Institute: Native American Children's Literature Recommended Reading List

NOVEMBER IS NATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE MONTH

Monday, November 28, 2016

Rain Is Not My Indian Name by Cynthia Leitich Smith


Cassidy Rain Berghoff and her best friend Galen Owen have promised each other to always celebrate their birthdays, both having been born on noteworthy days - Rain on New Year's Day and Galen on July 4th. Now that their friendship seems to be moving into the relationship realm, Rain had already decided that for her 14th birthday, it was time to kiss Galen, really kiss him, French kiss him. But it was a kiss destined never to happen. Galen was hit by a car and killed on New Year's Eve.

Rain is unable to bring herself to attend Galen's funeral, and in fact, holes up in the house for the next six months. By June, though, she is somewhat ready to emerge from hiding.  Her older brother has let her know that he would like her to participate in their Aunt Georgia's Indian Camp, a camp for Native American teens to explore their culture while living in a very white community. Rain isn't really interested in it, but finds a way to be there without participating. When she was young, her grandfather taught her all about photography. Rain has become a very talented photographer and is hired to take photos of Indian Camp for a news article in the local newspaper. The paper is run by Fynn's girl friend, Natalie, who has also been living in their home for a while.

Rain is a little confused when she first arrives at camp to find her former best friend, Queenie, there. When Rain learned that Queenie and Galen were romantically involved, their friendship began to change, and completely dissolved when Queenie hurt Galen. To make matters worse, Queenie had gone to Galen's funeral, something Rain couldn't do, and had even read a poem she had written. Now, no one understands why an African American girl is participating in Indian Camp until they learn that Queenie has recently discovered that she is part Native American, her great grandfather was Seminole.

Rain's intention is to keep a neutral distance from the camp and just take photographs, but when she learns that Mrs. Owen, Galen's mother, is challenging the town council for giving the camp some public funding, her attitude about and involvement in it can't help but change. Having been subjected to all kinds of stereotyping, anti-Indian prejudice and demeaning sentiments in and out of school her whole life, Mrs. Owen's challenge just becomes too much for Rain to ignore.

Rain is a teenager who has a lot to deal with - coming to terms with Galen's death, her brother's pending marriage and the baby he and Natalie are expecting, the possibility of rekindling her friendship with Queenie, and exploring her feelings about her own Native American heritage. Rain's mother, who was killed by a freak lighting strike a few years earlier, was Muscogee, Creek-Cherokee, and Scots-Irish, and had always referred to her family as her "patchwork tribe." Her dad, stationed overseas at a military base, is Irish, German and Ojibwe. The family lives in Hannesberg, Kansas, a mostly white community, which is one of the reasons Aunt Georgia felt Indian Camp was so important for the few Native teens who live there.

Rain Is Not My Indian Name is Cynthia Leitich Smith's debut novel and she written a main character who is sensitive, funny and for the most part very in touch with her own feelings about herself.  And even though it is narrated in the first person by Rain, the reader gets even more insight into her life through the short journal entries the begin each chapter.

Rain says she is basically OK with who she is: "Being a mixed blood girl is not big deal...Dealing with the rest of the world and its ideas, now that makes me a little crazy sometimes." And yet, she wants nothing to do with Indian Camp, and in school, around Thanksgiving when all the negative pop culture depictions of Indians come up "as bogeymen on the prairie, windblown cover boys selling paperback romances, or baby-faced refugees from the world of Precious Moments" (pg 13), she hides behind sci-fi fanzines rather than doing or saying anything, just as she hides behind her camera for Indian Camp or in the house for six months after Galen's death.

Rain Is Not My Indian Name is a coming of age novel about learning to (re)connect with the world in a new way and Indian Camp just may be the way for Rain to do that.

But it is also a much needed novel about what it feels like to live in a white community when you are culturally mixed, and part of that mix is Native American. And for readers who aren't Native American, like myself, reading this novel is an important eye-opening experience.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL

NOVEMBER IS NATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE MONTH

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Ashes (Seeds of America Trilogy - Book 3) by Laurie Halse Anderson



Ashes continues the story of Isabel and Curzon begun in Chains and continued in Forge, picking up the threads of their story 3 years later, beginning on June 25, 1781, and ending on November 5, 1781.  And while Chains was told from Isabel's point of view, and Forge was told from Curzon's point of view, in Ashes the story is again narrated by Isabel.

Three years have gone by since Isabel and Curzon escaped from Valley Forge and their enslavement by the cruel, sadistic Mister Bellingham. Now, as runaway slaves, they have already walked nearly 1,000 miles from Pennsylvania to Virginia to South Carolina in search of Isabel's younger, epileptic sister, Ruth, and dodging British and Continental patrols, armed Loyalists and bounty hunters along the way.

But when they finally find Ruth, Isabel doesn't get the reception she had been hoping for. Instead, Ruth is cold and won't even look at her sister.  She has been living with an elderly slave couple and a young boy named Aberdeen since being sent south in 1776. Though the couple love Ruth as if she were their own daughter, they tell her to go north with her sister and to do what she says. Ruth may be obedient to her sister's requests, but she still wants nothing to do with Isabel, refusing to even look at her, much to Isabel's disappointment.

Meanwhile, Curzon's loyalty is still with the Patriots, while Isabel feels that neither the British nor the Patriots will help enslaved people like themselves achieve freedom, no matter what they promise. The two argue about this endlessly, so when Curzon, Isabel, Ruth and Aberdeen meet up with the Continental Army at Williamsburg, Va, they decide to go their separate ways. Aberdeen chooses to work as a spy for the British, Curzon rejoins the Patriot army, and the two sisters find work in a laundry run by Widow Hallahan. With a promise to be paid money, Isabel also finds work washing up and later serving in a tavern owned by Widow Hallahan's son and frequented by the Americans and French. But once the armies move on the Yorktown, Isabel wonders what will happen. It doesn't take long to find out. Isabel rightly suspects that Widow Hallahan has plans for Ruth that don't include Isabel - shades of Mrs. Lockton's treachery in Chains that originally separated the two sisters.  Isabel quickly decides that it is time to leave, and the sisters make a daring exit from Williamsburg, following the armies to Yorktown, VA and finding work as cooks.

Though Isabel finds herself in the midst of the war, this last book in the trilogy is really about her, with the chaos and confusion of the war mirroring her thoughts and feelings about her and Ruth, and what the future will hold for them, and the place Curzon may or may not have in it. Isabel and Curzon have now known each other since she was 12 and he was 15. He is the only person she has ever really trusted, but as the war carries on around them, Isabel sees less and less of him, even as she thinks more and more about him. It takes a long time for Isabel to realize that Curzon can love her at the same time that he loves his country and he is willing for fight for both of them.

Laurie Halse Anderson has explored so many aspects of the Revolutionary War in her Seeds of America Trilogy that are not a part of the usual school curriculum.  And she has brilliantly woven them into the story of these young enslaved people who only want their freedom, paralleling their stories with that of the Patriots who are fighting for their freedom and independence from Britain. She offers readers a vibrant history of a war that we traditionally think of in terms of white soldiers and leaders being fought for white colonists, forgetting or not even knowing that there were many African American soldiers who also fought, generally in place of their owners, in the hope of gaining their freedom after the war is over, soldiers like Curzon; and girls like Isabel, who were charged with helping to care of the leaders of the war with no real hope of future freedom.

Ashes ends with the surrender of the British and the end of the war.  And for readers it is the end of Isabel and Curzon's stories, but Anderson offers us a hopeful conclusion to her Seeds of America trilogy, though there are no tidy answers about the future for Isabel, Curson, Ruth and Aberdeen. They must still head north, they are still considered to be runaway slaves, and there are still bounty hunters after them.

Chains, Forge, and Ashes are individually and as a trilogy so well-crafted that it takes my breath away when I think about it. They are honest, thought provoking, gripping adventure as they narrate the sensitive personal stories about people who traditionally have not had voice at that time. By giving Isabel and Curzon a voice, Anderson has opened our eyes to really thinking differently about the history of this country.

Be sure not to miss the extensive appendix at the end of the book which offers explanations and suggestions for further reading about many of the people, places and events included in Ashes.

I cannot recommend Chains, Forge, and Ashes highly enough.

This book is recommended for readers age 10+
This book was an EARC received from Edelweiss/Above the Treeline

Monday, November 21, 2016

For Thanksgiving, the State of New York gave me...



JURY DUTY


It looks like I'll be hanging out on the set for Law & Order: SUV for a while (that's just a joke, it's really the New York State Supreme Court Building).

But even though I had to cancel my Thanksgiving travel plans, I look at jury duty as a chance to do my civic duty while catching up on emails, books that need to be read, other neglected things that need doing and meeting new people from my neighborhood who were also called. In NYC, you go to the courthouse everyday until you either get picked for a jury or dismissed after three days. And who knows, maybe for once I will get chosen for a jury.
 
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