Thursday, October 24, 2013


Tingle, Tim.  (2006). Crossing Bok Chitto. Ill. by Jeanne Rorex Bridges.  El Paso, TX : Cinco Puntos Press.
ISBN 978-0-938317-77-7


A girl from the Choctaw Nation named Martha Tom becomes friends with an African American enslaved boy named Little Mo.  When the children have grown a little older, Little Mo’s family learns that his mother is to be sold off the next day.  In desperation, he suggests they cross Bok Chitto and the family agrees.  If a slave crosses Bok Chitto to the Choctaw side, that person is free.  Martha Tom and her family agree to help.  Little Mo’s family practice being invisible to the eyes of the white men with guns who are guarding their cabin and they cross the river.  The plantation owner and his men see them as they are crossing, but before they shoot, they see the Choctaw women and Martha Tom, gliding to the river in their white ceremonial dresses, holding out their arms like angels.  Because of the stones placed just below the surface of the water, it looks like they are walking on water, stunning all the men.  The family crosses Bok Chitto with the help of Martha Tom’s family.  There is a note at the end about Choctaws today and another explanation about Choctaw storytelling and how the author came up with the idea for this story.


Tim Tingle is a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and the story is based on a true story of how a group of Choctaw members used to help runaway slaves.  Because Tim Tingle is Choctaw, he has a great deal of authority to tell “a Choctaw tale of friendship and freedom.”  Illustrator Jeanne Rorex Bridges is of Cherokee ancestry. 

The illustrations are stark and somewhat stylized.   All groups of people are depicted with authentic skin tones and hair color.  Many of the images are of people looking straight out of the pages, with a stern intensity of expression that shows the seriousness of the topic.  On a two-page spread, one page shows Martha Tom’s portrait while the other page shows Little Mo.  It deliberately compares and contrasts them—two children, both young, but one female, one male, one Choctaw, one black, both with the same expression on their face as they look out of the pages, so serious.  It highlights how all humans struggle together and how we are not that different despite our appearances.  The book is balanced, both with gender, but also by showing how a Native people group helped African-Americans, which is not often shown in children’s literature. 

This book is a great example of a book that shows Native Americans in a leadership, hero role.  Unfortunately, too many books about Native American culture still show indigenous people in need of rescue, often by white people.  In this case, the Choctaw women help other people who have been oppressed by white people whose ancestors came from Europe.  Additionally, “Stereotypical images of young children in headdresses, passive girls in long, black braids…” (Smolen and Oswald, 135) are not encouraged here.  Martha Tom does have a long black braid down her back, but she is far from passive and not a single feather is visible in the illustrations.  Martha Tom leads an entire family to freedom.  Therefore, this book is a great addition to any classroom or home, because it shows Native Americans in a positive, proactive light that combats the many negative stereotypes still in children’s literature today.  Our textbook says, “Tim Tingle’s Crossing Bok Chitto: A Choctaw Tale of Friendship and Freedom (2006), written as a tribute to the native peoples of every nation who aided runaway people of bondage, highlights the coming together of African Americans and Native Americans (Chocktaw) through the bravery of two young children fighting to free a family from slavery” (142).  (Note that "Chocktaw" is an alternatively spelling to Choctaw.)

It is unclear whether this is an original Choctaw tale, but the end pages suggest that Tim Tingle made up this story.  However, this is acceptable and is not “fakelore” (Vardell, notes) because he is not an outsider and he has done his research.  It is based on truth, even if he added to it.  The fact that a specific tribe is mentioned keeps this book from falling prey to the “pan-Indian” effect of generalizing all Native American people groups into one generic group, rather than celebrating the uniqueness of the over-500 different tribal groups (Vardell, n.p.).

The artist rendering of Martha Tom show her in a dress that looks much like a prairie settler’s dress, with a white apron-smock over her red dress, though moccasins are visible on her feet.  There is a close up of Martha Tom and Little Mo first crossing the river for fun, and she has on simple moccasins without any beading and he is barefoot, which would be common for a young enslaved boy.

The plot requires a leap of imagination at the end when the slaves escape right in front of the plantation people, but the skill of moving without notice is mentioned previously in the book, “not too fast, not to slow, eyes to the ground, away you go!” and so ties the ending to the rest of the story.  As well, at the conclusion of the story, Martha Tom sings a song of freedom that she learned from the forbidden slave church, but she sings it in Choctaw, giving authenticity to the story both by including interlingual use of Choctaw.  It also is a concrete representation of the mingling of these two cultures that happened through their friendship.  Martha Tom took what she learned from them, but made it her own through her own language.  “Nitak ishtayo pikmano/Chissus ut minitit./Umala holitopama/Chihot aya laske!/We are bound for the Promised Land!”  It is a very positive story of friendship and freedom, just as the subtitle says.

By including the short article, “Choctaws Today:  Two Prosperous Nations, One Strong People,” Tingle makes sure readers are aware that the Choctaw are not “extinct,” but are contemporary members of American society as well.  The image he selected to include shows a large group of Choctaw members, dressed in contemporary clothing with jeans and shorts.  This sends a powerful message that helps fight the wrong idea that Native Americans were only “back then” in our history.  No, they are very much alive and well today and Tim Tingle confirms that positive message as well.


“Tingle is a performing storyteller, and his text has the rhythm and grace of that oral tradition. It will be easily and effectively read aloud. The paintings are dark and solemn, and the artist has done a wonderful job of depicting all of the characters as individuals, with many of them looking out of the page right at readers. The layout is well designed for groups as the images are large and easily seen from a distance. There is a note on modern Choctaw culture, and one on the development of this particular work. This is a lovely story, beautifully illustrated, though the ending requires a somewhat large leap of the imagination.”—School Library Journal, July 1, 2006.

“Bridges creates mural-like paintings with a rock-solid spirituality and stripped-down graphic sensibility, the ideal match for the down-to-earth cadences and poetic drama of the text. Many of the illustrations serve essentially as portraits, and they're utterly mesmerizing-strong, solid figures gaze squarely out of the frame, beseeching readers to listen, empathize and wonder."-- Publishers Weekly, March 13, 2006.

"Gr. 2-4. In a picture book that highlights rarely discussed intersections between Native Americans in the South and African Americans in bondage, a noted Choctaw storyteller and Cherokee artist join forces with stirring results. Set "in the days before the War Between the States, in the days before the Trail of Tears," and told in the lulling rhythms of oral history, the tale opens with a Mississippi Choctaw girl who strays across the Bok Chitto River into the world of Southern plantations, where she befriends a slave boy and his family. When trouble comes, the desperate runaways flee to freedom, helped by their own fierce desire (which renders them invisible to their pursuers) and by the Choctaws' secret route across the river. In her first paintings for a picture book, Bridges conveys the humanity and resilience of both peoples in forceful acrylics, frequently centering on dignified figures standing erect before moody landscapes. Sophisticated endnotes about Choctaw history and storytelling traditions don't clarify whether Tingle's tale is original or retold, but this oversight won't affect the story's powerful impact on young readers, especially when presented alongside existing slave-escape fantasies such as Virginia Hamiltons's The People Could Fly0 (2004) and Julius Lester's The Old African 0 (2005)"—Booklist, April 15, 2006.

Texas Bluebonnet Master Award List 1008-2009.

  • Read books about the Choctaw Nation.  Study the two different Choctaw Nations, comparing and contrasting what they share in common with what make up distinct differences. 
  • Read other books by Tim Tingle, such as When Turtle Grew Feathers:  A Tale from the Choctaw Nation and Saltypie.  Compare and contrast the stories or do an author study.
  • Listen to Tingle’s book The Choctaw Way on audio, which tells the journey of the Choctaw people from the beginnings in Mississippi to modern Houston. 
  • Invite a member of the Choctaw Nation to come speak to the class, if possible.
  • Read the book Escapes from Slavery, by Stephen Currie.  Compare Little Mo’s family’s escape from slavery to the stories in this book.


I really enjoyed the somber mood and tone of the book.  I found the ending to be quite surprising, as there is nothing else in the book that would suggest this story would include mystical, mysterious events such as becoming invisible to the plantation’s men, but otherwise, I felt the positive message of the book and the power given to the young children in the story (who are the ones who save the family, really), make it a great book to have.

Works Referenced:

Currie, Stephen. (2003).  Escapes from Slavery.  Farmington Hills, MI:  Cengage Gale.

Smolen, Lynn Atkinson and Ruth A. Oswald, ed.  (2011).  Multicultural Literature and Response:  Affirming Diverse Voices.  Santa Barbara, CA:  Libraries Unlimited.

Tingle, Tim.  (1997).  The Choctaw Way, audio.  Dripping Springs, TX:  Storytribe Publishing.

Tingle, Tim. (2010).  Saltypie.  El Paso, TX:  Cinco Puntos Press.

Tingle, Tim. (2007).  When Turtle Grew Feathers, audio.  Atlanta, GA:  August House Publishers, Inc.

Vardell, Sylvia. (2008).  “Overview” Culture 4 Native Am Lit.  Texas Woman’s University.  Blackboard class LS 5653, Multicultural Literature for Children and Young Adults.  Web.  Accessed October 20, 2013. 

CODE TALKER, by Joseph Bruchac

Bruchac, Joseph. (2005).  Code Talker: A Novel about the Navajo Marines of World War Two.  New York:  Dial Books.
Code TalkerISBN 0-8037-2921-9


A boy from a Navajo reservation goes to school to learn English and eventually is recruited into the Marines.  He becomes a member of a special team of Navajo soldiers whose secret mission was to send war messages during World War II using a code within their own sacred language, so that the enemies could not crack the code.  Many years later, he is finally able to talk about his classified assignment.  This is historical fiction—the protagonist is fictional, but the events and battles in the story are real.  The author includes a note at the end about the Navajo and the Code Talkers, as well as a selected bibliography with books about the Navajos, Code Talkers, and World War Two.


Joseph Bruchac researched this material very carefully.  He is not Navajo, but is western Abenaki.  His family has long been involved in the preservation of their native language, so Bruchac found the use of the Navajo language in wartime to be fascinating. 

The storyteller is a grandfather, looking back over his life.  He says, “Grandchildren, you asked about this medal of mine.  There is much to be said about it” (1), and he uses careful, measured words to communicate his experiences.  The author writes, “You cannot weave a rug before you set up the loom” (3) and so his story begins with the protagonist, age 6, about to leave his home to go to the mission school and learn English.  We see his family dressed in their finery to send off their little boy.  “She was dressed in her finest clothing—a new, silky blue blouse and a blue pleated skirt decorated with bands of gold ribbons.  On her feet were soft calf-high moccasins, and she wore all her silver and turquoise jewelry.  Her squash-blossom necklace, her bracelets, her concha belt, her earrings—I knew she had adorned herself with all of these things for me” (5).  The image firmly sets the scene from the point of view of Kii Yazhi, our protagonist.  Our sympathy goes to him, alone in a new environment.  Then the early chapters are a brutal revelation of what the Navajo suffered at the hands of the American school masters.  He is given a new name (Ned), his hair is shaved, and his own clothing and jewelry is taken from him.  Their language was scorned and forbidden, which creates a powerful irony that their language is a very real part of what allowed America to help win World War II. 

The Navajo culture is treated respectfully, as Bruchac describes the protection ceremony to send Ned away, the Blessingway. “Even now, sixty years later, I can still feel the beauty of that night.  I can hear the twelve Hogan Songs that began that night…” (55).   Ned keeps his sacred pollen bag with him throughout the war.  “Each morning, I thought of my home and my family.  I stood facing the rising run.  I took corn pollen from the pouch I always carried at my waist, touched it to my tongue and the top of my head, then lifted it up to the four sacred directions as  I greeted the dawn” (82).  This excerpt shows both the reverence given to this action, but also contains the cultural marker of how the number four is often sacred to Native Americans, as opposed to the the number three (Vardell, n.p.)

The language of the text is simple and direct.  Because we know that this is a grandfather looking back, we know he survives it all, which helps reduce possible uncomfortable tension.  Bruchac does not shy away from describing battles, such as “I heard a cry from the man on my left and turned to see my friend Georgia Boy holding his own throat.  Blood was spurting through his fingers and his helmet had been knocked off “ (192) but he brings readers back to modern times with a carefully included direct reference to his grandchildren as he writes, which reminds us once again that the character of Ned survives the war intact and is only remembering these horrible events, not going through them again.  It reduces the drama, but makes the book accessible to a younger audience.  The main characters do not die.  Even when we think two of the men he describes have died, it turns out they did not. 

The book is described in a review as “non-sensational,” which is a perfect description.  The character of Ned simply describes things in the order they happened, with very little fanfare or added shock-value.

Ned and many of his Navajo friends mention the frustration of being called, “Chief” by their fellow soldiers.  You can practically see them roll their eyes as they discuss this with one another.  Bruchac gently makes his point about the demeaning nature of this kind of talk through the Navajo soldier’s response to it when not around their white comrades.  Ned makes several white friends, which is a new experience for him.  Through his relationship with Georgia Boy (who is one who calls him “Chief”), we see how people can transcend culture to really connect (105).

This book shows Native Americans playing an important role in American history as soldiers for the United States of America.  Many people do not know the role the Navajo people had in World War II, so this book has incredible value as it shows the Navajo experience as code talkers in World War II. 

Not all Navajo members were code talkers because they had been forced to forget too much of their own language.  They had been much abused.  As we see near the end of the book, even when in uniform, Ned is refused service in a bar and is treated terribly simply because he is Navajo.  The grim reality of prejudice is painted clearly, but not overplayed in this novel.  Ned is not surprised by what he experiences.  The focus remains on the amazing accomplishment of the Navajo soldiers as a group, not his own bravery or his own suffering.  It’s an inspiring tale of overcoming oppression and staying true to yourself and being able to help others because of it.



“In the measured tones of a Native American storyteller, Bruchac assumes the persona of a Navajo grandfather telling his grandchildren about his World War II experiences. Protagonist Ned Begay starts with his early schooling at an Anglo boarding school, where the Navajo language is forbidden, and continues through his Marine career as a "code talker," explaining his long silence until "de-classified" in 1969. Begay's lifelong journey honors the Navajos and other Native Americans in the military, and fosters respect for their culture. Bruchac's gentle prose presents a clear historical picture of young men in wartime, island hopping across the Pacific, waging war in the hells of Guadalcanal, Bougainville, and Iwo Jima. Nonsensational and accurate, Bruchac's tale is quietly inspiring…”—School Library Journal, May 1, 2005.

“Bruchac's fictional Ned Begay represents all the Navajo Marines who, despite their treatment by white America, fought valiantly in foreign wars. Ned tells his own story in simple, measured prose, as a grandfather's tale to his grandchildren. The author never allows his lovely and poignant novel to become a polemic against the mindless abuse of the mission schools or the horrors of war in the Pacific, but he instead offers a portrait of a brave and generous man who represents any teenager caught in the forces of history. This fine novel should find a place in all collections serving young adults.” Voice of youth Advocates, April 1, 2005.

"Not every section of the book is riveting, but slowly the succession of scenes, impressions, and remarks build to create a solid, memorable portrayal of Ned Begay. Even when facing complex negative forces within his own country, he is able to reach into his traditional culture to find answers that work for him in a modern context. Readers who choose the book for the attraction of Navajo code talking and the heat of battle will come away with more than they ever expected to find." – Booklist, Feb 15. 2005.

  •  Read nonfiction books about the Navajo Code Talkers, such as Nathan Aaseng’s Navajo Code Talkers (Walker, 1992), or Deanne Durrett’s Unsung Heroes of World War II:  The Story of the Navajo Code Talkers (1998).  Compare and contrast the fiction and nonfiction works.
  • Some may want to watch Windtalkers, the movie that is about the Navajo Code Talkers in WWII, but keep in mind it is a rated R movie, due to language and graphic war violence.
  • Read other Joseph Bruchac books and do an author study. 
  • Do a character map of Ned and his relationships throughout the novel (as explained in Smolen and Oswald, pg 102-103).


I really am glad to have learned more about this topic.  I found the first part of the book the most riveting, interestingly.  I had had no idea that the mission schools were so dehumanizing.  The details were so specific that it really brought the whole thing to life, like the washing of the mouth with soap.  It was horrifying.  The battle scenes were less than thrilling for me—I don’t like war books in the first place and the language used in the text does feel younger than you’d expect for a book about war.  I am not sure how engrossing this would be to a teenager, but the topic itself is certainly fascinating.

Works Referenced:

Aaseng, Nathan. (2000). Navajo Code Talkers.  New York:  Walker & Company.

Durrett, Deanne. (2009).   Unsung Heroes of World War II:  The Story of the Navajo Code Talkers. Lincoln, NE:  University of Nebraska Press.

Smolen, Lynn Atkinson and Ruth A. Oswald, ed.  (2011).  Multicultural Literature and Response:  Affirming Diverse Voices.  Santa Barbara, CA:  Libraries Unlimited.

Vardell, Sylvia.  (2008).  “Overview” Culture 4 Native Am Lit  Texas Woman’s University.  Blackboard class LS 5653, Multicultural Literature for Children and Young Adults.  Web.  Accessed October 23, 2013. 

Woo, John (director). (2002).  Windtalkers.  MGM (Nicolas Cage, Adam Beach, actors)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

JINGLE DANCER, by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Smith, Cynthia Leitich. (2000). Jingle Dancer. Ill. by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu.  New York : Morrow Junior Books.
ISBN 0-688-16242-8 (library), 0-688-16241-X (trade)

(Note that Books in Print lists her name by Smith, not by Leitich-Smith.  She also does not hyphenate her name on her own website, so neither did I.)


Jenna wishes to dance at the next powwow, but does not have the required jingle dress.  She needs four rows of jingles.  As she helps her relatives throughout the day, she asks if she may have one row of their jingle dress, and they agree, asking her to dance for them.  At the end of the story, the little girl is able to dance her first jingle dance.  The author writes a note at the end that explains more about Jenna’s tribe (Muscogee (Creek) Nation, as is the author), about jingle dancing, the regalia used in a jingle dance, and other related facts.  A glossary is included for four words related to Native American culture.


In this sweet tale of a young girl’s desire to become a full participant in her culture by dancing like her adult female relatives at the next powwow, Jenna problem solves her need for a jingle dress by realizing that each adult could share from her own dress.  No one else solves it for her.  She is shown as a thoughtful girl, as she does not want to take so many jingles from one person that, “her dress would lose its voice,” which is a statement repeated each time she asks for a row of jingles. The writing is lyrical, with repetition used to tie each scene together.  The author uses personified phrases such as, “As Moon kissed Sun good night” and “as Sun fetched morning” to indicate time passing, which enhances the lyrical tone of the book and brings to mind legends and stories of Native peoples around the world.  The book begins with onomatopoeia (“Tink, tink, tink, sang cone-shaped jingles sewn to Grandma Wolfe’s dress”) and also uses onomatopoeia when describing the drums of the powwow (“brum, brum brum.”)  The use of these sound devices helps the reader fully experience the story, as sound is so important in a powwow jingle dance.  The dance itself is shown to be important and sacred to their family.  You can see the pride and excitement in Jenna’s face when she finally achieves her goal.

The illustrations are realistic and soft, appropriate for a story of a young girl and her loving interactions with her family and friends.  The smiles and love between the family and friends are rendered carefully in the illustrations.  The details in the dresses are culturally accurate, based on the Author’s Note, which describes jingle dresses. Each character is shown with the coloration of a Native person as a cultural marker, but with modern dress and hair styles that encourage children to understand that Native people are not the stereotypes that are still unfortunately shown in so many places, from ABC books to children’s counting songs.  As Cynthia Leitich Smith says, “I’m usually feather free” (Smolen and Oswald, 142).

The plot is very straight-forward, but is a wonderful representation of Native American culture.  It does not encourage stereotypes.  It is true that Great-aunt Sis tells Jenna a traditional Muscogee (Creek) story, but it is appropriate because it’s a specific, accurate tribal story (not a generic or made-up, “Native American” story) and it is a story that fits in with the theme of the story.  The story focuses on a young, small girl wishing to join the rest of her family –team--by dancing for the first time.  She has something to contribute despite her youth and size, just as Bat does—she will be dancing for all of those who cannot dance for themselves. 

Ms. Leitich-Smith is Muscogee (Creek) in heritage as well, which gives her the credibility and authority to use a traditional story from that particular tribe, as well as the knowledge about powwows and jingle dancing to write an authentic, celebratory book about her culture.  Jenna eats fry bread, which is an authentic Native American food.  This could have been a stereotypical image, except that the focus is not on the food, but on the daydream she is having while eating the food.  Fry bread is defined in the glossary, as is powwow, Indian tacos and regalia, but the glossary and story do not encourage stereotyping.  On the contrary, this book is a wonderful replacement for books that use stereotypes or one dimensional portrays of Native Americans. 

Dr. Vardell reminds us that “Currently, the biggest lack in Native literature for young people is the need for contemporary stories in both picture books and novels. We need more books which show us Native children today, and not simply as "movie" characters from long ago and far away.”  We see Jenna dancing in front of the TV, using modern technology. Great-aunt Sis lives in a suburban neighborhood.  Mrs. Scott lives in a new duplex, and will be selling fry bread and Indian tacos at the powwow, earning an income as a woman. Cousin Elizabeth is a lawyer who can’t make it to the powwow because she’s got a big case coming up.  Each of these women visited by Jenna show a modern Native American woman who both values her heritage, but who also is a part of broader society and modern culture. Instead of some books that show Native Americans only in the past in traditional garb, in this story, the majority of the characters are seen in modern dress, in a modern, suburban setting.  Our text states, “Many children grow up believing that native peoples no longer exist….For that reason, Leitich-Smith’s Jingle Dancer (2000) and Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian (2007) offer the reader contemporary Native American characters who wear baseball caps, are both women and successful lawyers and business people…The message stands that native peoples do exist…” (142).

In a nice tribute to many Native people’s view of four as a holy number, instead of three, Jenna travels all four cardinal directions throughout the story seeking her four jingle rows.  The number four in relation to Native people is mentioned in the Author’s Note.


“Smith's language consciously evokes legend. For example, "As Sun caught a glimpse of the Moon" indicates the time of day; and Jenna is careful to borrow only a limited number of jingles, "not wanting to take so many that [another's] dress would lose its voice." Van Wright and Hu's (Jewels) lifelike renderings capture the genuine affection between Jenna and these caring older women. Their easy integration of Native and standard furnishings and clothing gracefully complement Smith's heartening portrait of a harmonious meshing of old and new. Ages 4-10.”—Publishers Weekly, May 15, 2000

“This contemporary Native American tale highlights the importance of family and community through a young girl's dream of joining the dancers at the next powwow. Jenna is a girl of Muscogee (Creek) and Ojibway (Chippewa/Anishinabe) descent. She has practiced the steps for the jingle dance by following her grandmother's moves on a video. Now she must get enough jingles (traditionally made of tin, aluminum, or gold canning lids rolled into cones) to sew on her dress to make a satisfying "tink, tink" as she dances. The way Jenna gathers her jingles (borrowing enough to make a row, but not so many that the lender's dress will "lose its voice"), and her promise to dance for the women who cannot dance for themselves illustrate the importance of family and community ties. The colorful, well-executed watercolor illustrations lend warmth to the story. A note explaining Jenna's heritage and a brief glossary are appended. “– Booklist, May 15, 2000

“Watercolor paintings in bright, warm tones fill each page. In scenes where she is dancing, backgrounds of blurred figures effectively represent both the large audience and the many generations whose tradition the gathering honors. Seeing Jenna as both a modern girl in the suburban homes of her intertribal community and as one of many traditionally costumed participants at the powwow will give some readers a new view of a contemporary Native American way of life. An author's note and glossary tell more about the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, the Ojibway origins of jingle dancing, and the significance of the number four in Native American tradition. This picture book will not only satisfy a need for materials on Native American customs, but will also be a welcome addition to stories about traditions passed down by the women of a culture.”- School Library Journal, July 1, 2000

Notable Children's Trade Books in the Field of Social Studies 2001, National Council for SS & Child. Book Council

Named to the Texas 2X2 List.


  • Read books about jingle dancing. 
  • Watch a video of a public powwow that demonstrates the actual dance. Hearing and seeing the dance are very different than just imagining it. 
  • If possible, attend a public powwow.  Compare and contrast the experience with the book.
  • Read other books by Cynthia Leitich Smith that focuses on Native American culture for an author study, such as book Indian Shoes (2002).   (She also writes fantasy novels, so be careful which book you choose for classroom use!  Vampires and angels are not going to help the discussion on Native cultures, though her Tantalize series is very popular and well-done, as well.)  If you are working with teenagers, Rain is Not My Indian Name would also be an excellent choice.
  • Based on our textbook and class notes, do NOT try to duplicate a jingle dance in the classroom or have students create jingles to put onto their clothes or (worse) a paper bag decorated with generic mish-mash of symbols that are meant to look Native American. This is the kind of activity that teachers have done for years without realizing that the dances are seen as sacred events and the regalia is also sacred to many Native Americans, so having children make their own would be insulting to these people groups.  Example of what NOT to do: or .
  • Study Cynthia Leitich Smith's website, which is rich in multicultural book reviews and author blogs and interviews.  Her website is: .


I had the good fortune of attending a public powwow as a teenager with my best friend in Oklahoma, who is part Comanche.  It helped me see how many stereotypes are around us regarding Native American culture.  I really enjoyed the book.  There is very little drama to the story, but there is a rhythm to the story that carries the reader along easily.  This was her first published work and it’s easy to see her skill even in her earliest work.  Unfortunately, my children would not read it with me.  They said it was too slow for them.  They did, however, enjoy watching videos of jingle dances from several sources on Youtube, which then led to watching all sorts of Native American dances.  But they still would not sit still for this book.

Works Referenced:

Smith, Cynthia Leitich.  (2001).  Rain is Not My Indian Name.  New York : HarperCollins Publishers.

Smith, Cynthia Leitich.  (2008).  Tantalize. Somerville, MA:  Candlewick Press.

Smith, Cynthia Leitich et al.  (2002).  Indian Shoes.  New York:  HarperCollins Publishers. 

Smolen, Lynn Atkinson and Ruth A. Oswald, ed.  (2011).  Multicultural Literature and Response:  Affirming Diverse Voices.  Santa Barbara, CA:  Libraries Unlimited.

Vardell, Sylvia.  (2008).  “Overview” Culture 4 Native Am Lit.  Texas Woman’s University.  Blackboard class LS 5653, Multicultural Literature for Children and Young Adults.  Web.  Accessed October 23, 2013.