Sunday, September 24, 2023

Indigenous Kidlit

Indigenous Peoples' Day is coming soon so I thought it would be a good time to highlight some of the Indigenous titles that have caught my attention lately. Obviously these titles are excellent for all times of the year though.

Picture Books - All three of these are lovely in different ways and are definitely books that everyone should get a chance to read. 

Book cover. Adult and young child are sitting in the middle of a yellow dandelion. There are two bees flying around them. They are holding a bouquet of dandelions. There are other large dandelions around the one they are sitting in.
Âmî Osâwâpikones/Dear Dandelion by S.J. Okemow

Annick Press Ltd.

Publisher summary: Both a love letter to the dandelion and a call to love ourselves in a difficult world, Âmî Osâwâpikones reminds us that we are not defined as others see us. Following our young protagonist and the dandelions through the seasons, we are reminded that we are resilient, we are healers, we are funny, and we are loved.

Book cover. The overall image is done in different shades of red. There is a young person's face in the center. There are flowers, dragonflies, stars, and many other things surrounding the face. The person is looking up with what seems to be wonder.

Remember by Joy Harjo, illustrations by Michaela Goade

Random House

Publisher summary: Remember the sky you were born under, Know each of the star's stories. Remember the moon, know who she is. Remember the sun's birth at dawn, That is the strongest point of time. So begins the picture book adaptation of the renowned poem that encourages young readers to reflect on family, nature, and their heritage. In simple and direct language, Harjo, a member of the Mvskoke Nation, urges readers to pay close attention to who they are, the world they were born into, and how all inhabitants on earth are connected. Michaela Goade, drawing from her Tlingit culture, has created vivid illustrations that make the words come alive in an engaging and accessible way. This timeless poem paired with magnificent paintings makes for a picture book that is a true celebration of life and our human role within it.

Book cover. An animal is in each corner of the book surrounded by green leaves.
It's a Mitig! by Bridget George

Douglas & McIntyre

Publisher summary: A fun and colorful introduction to the Ojibwe language through nature It’s a Mitig! guides young readers through the forest and introduces them to Ojibwe words that describe the natural world. Featuring vibrant and playful artwork, an illustrated Ojibwe-to-English glossary and a simple introduction to the double-vowel pronunciation system, plus accompanying online recordings, It’s a Mitig! is one of the first books of its kind. From sunup to sundown, encounter an amik playing with sticks and swimming in the river, a prickly gaag hiding in the bushes and a big, bark-covered mitig . Using rhyme to help readers predict the Ojibwe pronunciation, It’s a Mitig! makes learning new words fun. Anishinaabe author-illustrator Bridget George created this unique book for young children and their families with the heartfelt desire to spark a lifelong interest in learning language. Whether connecting with one’s Ojibwe ancestry or simply opening children’s eyes and ears to the cornucopia of North American dialects, It’s a Mitig! is a useful tool for exploring language.

Young Adult - These are two incredible stories and both were almost impossible to put down. 

Book cover. Young man is standing holding a basketball against his hip with one hand.
Rez Ball by Byron Graves [My Review at Rich in Color]


Publisher Summary: This compelling debut novel by new talent Byron Graves tells the relatable, high-stakes story of a young athlete determined to play like the hero his Ojibwe community needs him to be. These days, Tre Brun is happiest when he is playing basketball on the Red Lake Reservation high school team—even though he can’t help but be constantly gut-punched with memories of his big brother, Jaxon, who died in an accident. When Jaxon's former teammates on the varsity team offer to take Tre under their wing, he sees this as his shot to represent his Ojibwe rez all the way to their first state championship. This is the first step toward his dream of playing in the NBA, no matter how much the odds are stacked against him. But stepping into his brother’s shoes as a star player means that Tre can’t mess up. Not on the court, not at school, and not with his new friend, gamer Khiana, who he is definitely not falling in love with. After decades of rez teams almost making it, Tre needs to take his team to state. Because if he can live up to Jaxon's dreams, their story isn’t over yet.

Book cover. A young woman's face is centered. There is a lighter silhouette behind her and the phases of the moon are above them.
Warrior Girl Unearthed by Angeline Boulley [My Review at Rich in Color]


Publisher Summary: Perry Firekeeper-Birch was ready for her Summer of Slack but instead, after a fender bender that was entirely not her fault, she’s stuck working to pay back her Auntie Daunis for repairs to the Jeep. Thankfully she has the other outcasts of the summer program, Team Misfit Toys, and even her twin sister Pauline. Together they ace obstacle courses, plan vigils for missing women in the community, and make sure summer doesn’t feel so lost after all. But when she attends a meeting at a local university, Perry learns about the “Warrior Girl”, an ancestor whose bones and knife are stored in the museum archives, and everything changes. Perry has to return Warrior Girl to her tribe. Determined to help, she learns all she can about NAGPRA, the federal law that allows tribes to request the return of ancestral remains and sacred items. The university has been using legal loopholes to hold onto Warrior Girl and twelve other Anishinaabe ancestors’ remains, and Perry and the Misfits won’t let it go on any longer. Using all of their skills and resources, the Misfits realize a heist is the only way to bring back the stolen artifacts and remains for good. But there is more to this repatriation than meets the eye as more women disappear and Pauline’s perfectionism takes a turn for the worse. As secrets and mysteries unfurl, Perry and the Misfits must fight to find a way to make things right – for the ancestors and for their community. 

**This last one is probably considered Adult, but I think it would also work with Young Adults.

Book cover. An elder is standing in a field with a blue sky above her. There are a few puffy white clouds. She is wearing a colorful shawl and glasses and is smiling.
Project 562 by Matika Wilbur [Project 562 Website with Gallery]

Ten Speed Press

Publisher Summary: In 2012, Matika Wilbur sold everything in her Seattle apartment and set out on a Kickstarter-funded pursuit to visit, engage, and photograph people from what were then the 562 federally recognized Native American Tribal Nations. Over the next decade, she traveled six hundred thousand miles across fifty states—from Seminole country (now known as the Everglades) to Inuit territory (now known as the Bering Sea)—to meet, interview, and photograph hundreds of Indigenous people. The body of work Wilbur created serves to counteract the one-dimensional and archaic stereotypes of Native people in mainstream media and offers justice to the richness, diversity, and lived experiences of Indian Country. The culmination of this decade-long art and storytelling endeavor, Project 562 is a peerless, sweeping, and moving love letter to Indigenous Americans, containing hundreds of stunning portraits and compelling personal narratives of contemporary Native people—all photographed in clothing, poses, and locations of their choosing. Their narratives touch on personal and cultural identity as well as issues of media representation, sovereignty, faith, family, the protection of sacred sites, subsistence living, traditional knowledge-keeping, land stewardship, language preservation, advocacy, education, the arts, and more. A vital contribution from an incomparable artist, Project 562 inspires, educates, and truly changes the way we see Native America.

Monday, September 4, 2023

Book Review: How Do You Spell Unfair?

Young Black girl is wearing a white dress with some kind of small read flower or other object dotted around. She is holding onto a microphone stand and has her mouth open to speak. The title is in gold letters and there is a red curtain behind MacNolia.
Title: How Do You Spell Unfair?

Author: Carol Boston Weatherford

Illustrator: Frank Morrison

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Availablity: On shelves now

Review copy: Final copy via publisher

Summary: MacNolia Cox was no ordinary kid. Her idea of fun was reading the dictionary. In 1936, eighth grader MacNolia Cox became the first African American to win the Akron, Ohio, spelling bee. And with that win, she was asked to compete at the prestigious National Spelling Bee in Washington, DC, where she and a girl from New Jersey were the first African Americans invited since its founding. She left her home state a celebrity—right up there with Ohio’s own Joe Louis and Jesse Owens—with a military band and a crowd of thousands to see her off at the station. But celebration turned to chill when the train crossed the state line into Maryland, where segregation was the law of the land. Prejudice and discrimination ruled—on the train, in the hotel, and, sadly, at the spelling bee itself. With a brief epilogue recounting MacNolia’s further history, How Do You Spell Unfair? is the story of her groundbreaking achievement magnificently told by award-winning creators and frequent picture-book collaborators Carole Boston Weatherford and Frank Morrison.

My Thoughts: There are so many ways people have found to discriminate against African Americans and others over the years in the United States, but young readers may not realize how incredibly pervasive these things were. They may know about separate water fountains, where people could and couldn't sit on buses, or how difficult it could be to be able to vote, but might know that discrimination was baked into so many other areas of life. Here we see how there were many young people, including MacNolia Cox, who faced this unfairness with much effort, determination, and the support of family and community. 

The use of unique and interesting words throughout the text support the context of the spelling bee and provide challenges for readers if they want to practice or learn that vocabulary. The illustrations are rich and add depth to the story without distracting from it. 

Recommendation: This is a great picture book that shares part of our history and honors the many who have fought for justice in many areas of life over the years. It is an excellent addition to any library especially if you want to broaden your civil rights collection beyond the more typical buses and boycotts books.