YA – Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask: Young Readers Edition

Treuer, Anton. Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask: Young Readers Edition. Levine Querido. 2021. 978-1-646-14045-9. $18.99. 383 p. Grades: 7-up.

A Native Ojibwe professor of Ojibwe language and culture at the University of Bemidji in northern Minnesota, Anton Treuer has compiled a thorough exploration of Native American history, past and present. Formatted as questions and answers, Dr. Treuer separates the material in essays on the following topics: terminology; history; religion, culture, identity; powwow; tribal languages; politics; economics; education; social activism; perspectives. Among the subjects discussed are how to refer to Native Americans (which term to use), explanation of different customs and ceremonies, justification for reservations, criticism of imposed governmental removals and Indian schools, gender identity, women’s roles, and marriage in Native American community, identification of Native inventions and discoveries, and discussion of incidents connected to Native Americans. The information, albeit short, is noteworthy because of the wide variety covered. Students can use the detailed index to research Native American life; all ages can benefit from educating themselves on the Indigenous people whose home colonizers disrupted. Dr. Treuer writes in a relatable style, often posing his own carefully crafted opinions on some sensitive subjects and providing a personal touch to otherwise expository writing. This guidebook adapted for young readers is an essential purchase for school libraries. In addition to the index, the book includes photographs, recommended readings, and notes.

THOUGHTS: Each section of this book begins with quote(s), and I was surprised to see under the History heading one by Adolph Hitler. Rest assured, Treuer is reinforcing the devastation of Native American history, compared with Hitler’s annihilation of people. Treuer’s father, Robert Treuer, was an Austrian-Jew who escaped the Holocaust because of his mother’s efforts in securing transport to England and then, America. Dr. Treuer is steeped in his own mother’s Ojibwe heritage, and his non-Native father was also an advocate for Native American rights. Easy to use as a reference tool or for cover-to-cover reading, Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask, fulfills a need in everyone’s school collection and supports the continuing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion work.

970 History of North America          Bernadette Cooke   School District of Philadelphia
908.9 History of Ethnic and National Groups

Elem. – Classified: The Secret Career of Mary Golda Ross, Cherokee Aerospace Engineer

Sorell, Traci. Classified: The Secret Career of Mary Golda Ross, Cherokee Aerospace Engineer. Millbrook Press, 2021. 978-1-541-57914-9. 32p. $19.99. Grades K-3. 

Mary Golda Ross’s work as an aerospace engineer on several classified projects broke barriers not only for women but also for Native Americans. Many of the projects she worked on at Lockheed Aircraft Corporation remain a secret even today. Mary’s love of math, her motivation to pursue a well-rounded education, and her courage to secure a career in a male-dominated field earned her the respect of people around the world. During World War II, she worked on a team that improved the safety of the P-38 Lightning fighter plane. As Lockheed’s first female engineer, she recruited other women to the field. In the 1950s, while the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union raged, Mary was one of 40 engineers recruited to work on top-secret aerospace projects. Additionally, her research about satellites and space travel ultimately contributed to the Apollo mission to the moon. Although her work drew national and worldwide attention, Mary never sought the spotlight. Her humble nature and quiet leadership blazed a trail, and throughout her lifetime, she never stopped encouraging young women and Native Americans to study math, science, and engineering. A note at the beginning of the book outlines several Cherokee values Mary’s family instilled in her, including gaining skills in all areas of life, cooperating and working well with others, humility, and helping ensure equal education and opportunities for everyone. Backmatter includes a timeline of major events in Mary’s life, an author’s note, and more information about the Cherokee values highlighted in the text.

THOUGHTS: This title is well-suited to STEM units as well as to units about female trailblazers. The backmatter spotlighting Cherokee values mirrors many of the soft skills schools emphasize today, so there are opportunities for discussion and connections. Pair with Margot Lee Shettterly’s Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race.

Picture Book Biography          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

YA – Firekeeper’s Daughter

Boulley, Angeline. Firekeeper’s Daughter. Henry, Holt, and Co. 2021. 978-1-250-76656-4. $18.99. 496 p. Grades 9-12.

Daunis Fontaine, a recent high school graduate and former hockey star, lives in two different worlds. Set in Michigan’s upper peninsula, her Fontaine world includes her mother, grandmother, and recently deceased uncle, but she’s also half Anishinaabe. Her father was a part of the nearby Ojibwe tribe, and although she’s not an official member, the family and friends she has there mean just as much to her. After witnessing the murder of her best friend, Daunis decides to go undercover and help with a criminal investigation in order to save her tribe members from any further corruption. As the mysteries of the investigation unfold, she discovers some awful truths about the people she thought she knew and trusted, and it will take all of her strength to persevere without ruining her own life and relationships in the process.

THOUGHTS:  This debut novel gives readers a glimpse into modern, Native American culture along with traditions and beliefs unique to the Anishinaabe people, specifically an Ojibwe tribe located in the upper peninsula of Michigan. The author shines light on both the positive and negative aspects of life among the tribe, specifically a methamphetamine problem and the effect the drug is having on their community. Firekeeper’s Daughter is a thrilling and intense story that touches on sensitive issues including murder, addiction, grief, and sexual assault and a complex, main character who must find the strength to overcome the many obstacles in her life.

Realistic Fiction          Emily Hoffman, Conestoga Valley SD

MG – One Real American: The Life of Ely S. Parker

Bruchac, Joseph. One Real American: The Life of Ely S. Parker. Abrams, 2020. 978-1-419-74657-4. 242 p. $18.99. Grades 5-10. 

Abenaki author Joseph Bruchac chronicles the unique life of Ely Parker in this engaging biography. Parker (given the Senaca name Ha-sa-no-an-da at birth) was born on the Tonawanda Seneca Reservation in western New York in 1828. Educated in “English” schools, he became a translator for his tribal leaders in their negotiations with the United States government while still a teenager. Though he wanted to become a lawyer, racist policies of the time kept him from achieving this goal. Instead, Parker became an engineer, working on canals in various states. During the Civil War, Ely received a commission in the Union Army where he served as a general, working on engineering projects as well as administrative tasks. He was soon promoted to General Grant’s personal secretary. It was in this capacity that Ely Parker found himself present in the room at Appomattox when Lee surrendered to Grant. The official terms of the surrender were written in Parker’s own hand. Following the war, he continued his association with Grant, serving as commissioner of Indian Affairs during Grant’s presidency. Bruchac incorporates numerous quotes from Ely’s extensive writings within the text and numerous photographs accompany the text.

THOUGHTS: Despite his many accomplishments, Ely Parker is little known today. Hopefully this title helps to rectify this situation. Sure to be a hit with biography fans or Civil War researchers, this title deserves a spot on library shelves. Highly Recommended.

921 Biography          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

MG – The Sea in Winter

Day, Christine. The Sea in Winter. Heartdrum, 2021. 978-0-062-87204-3. $16.99. Grades 3-7.

Seventh grader Maisie isn’t having a great day just before her school’s midwinter break. She’s tardy to homeroom, and she earned a 70 on her most recent math test. A break from school and a family trip back home will be good “heart medicine.” Maisie could use a distraction from eating lunch alone and getting text updates from her ballet friends who she no sees. Maisie isn’t sure how to respond, so she usually doesn’t. Things start to look up when her physical therapist suggests that Maisie’s recovery from a torn ACL and surgery might be moving faster than initially anticipated. This news gives Maisie hope; she’s missed ballet and her friends so much, and she might even be able to make a few spring auditions if she keeps progressing. With this news (and a green light for hiking) Maisie’s family heads to the Olympic Peninsula to explore some areas that are important to their Native family. Maisie’s stormy emotions seem to get the best of her at times, and she’s not sure why she says some of the things she does. When Maisie’s frustration reaches a peak, she’ll have to decide who she wants to be, even if that doesn’t include ballet.

THOUGHTS: Upper elementary and middle school students will adore Maisie and recognize the roller coaster of emotions she experiences. Maisie’s little brother provides comic relief to some of her emotional “funks,” and her parents are extremely supportive. #OwnVoices author Day addresses negative self talk and depression in an age appropriate way that will resonate with students. Highly recommended.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Maise Cannon is many things: a middle schooler, a sister, a daughter, a Native American descended from the Makah and Piscataway tribes, and a ballet dancer. Her favorite of all her identities is of a ballet dancer, but her knee injury that she is recovering from may prevent her from ever dancing again. Her physical therapy is going well, and she hopes that she will be able to audition for a summer program like her friends. When her family goes on a hiking trip, Maisie re-injures her knee dashing any hopes of dancing any time soon. Maisie’s anxiety and depression take hold of her, and she shuts out everyone and everything in her life. Her family encourages Maisie to go to therapy. After a few months, Maisie finds a life for herself without dancing, and finds that she can be happy with what she CAN do.

THOUGHTS: This is a story where the characters just happen to be Native Americans. This would be a great addition for readers who are struggling with an injury.

Realistic Fiction         Krista Fitzpatrick, PSLA Member

YA Fiction – You Bring the Distant Near; Lives of Desperate Girls

Perkins, Mitali. You Bring the Distant Near. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017. 9780374304904. $17.99 320 p.  Gr. 7 and up.

Told through the alternating voices of the Das sisters and their daughters, You Bring the Distant Near is the story of three generations of women in a Bengali family, who immigrated to the United States. The bond between Sonia and Tara Das is explored as they each struggle to find their own place in America, all while obeying the cultural traditions of their family. Supportive and united, each sister takes a separate path in life, which leads Tara to success as a film star back home in India and Sonia into a full embrace of an inclusive American culture and a happy interracial marriage in New York.  Their daughters, Chantal and Anna, in turn have very different upbringings, but all the threads of this family’s disparate experiences come together when Anna is sent back to the US to finish high school.  Beautifully written with well-drawn and complex characters, the novel realistically portrays the nuanced relationships between the women.  The rich Bengali culture weaves through the three generations, influencing each of the women in different ways.  Thoughts: Strongly recommended as an addition to your collection of novels on the immigrant experience, filled with positive messages about acceptance, integration, and identity.

Realistic Fiction           Nancy Summers, Abington School District

Perkins, Mitali. You Bring the Distant Near. Farrar Straus Girox, 2017. 978–0374-30490-4 304p. $17.99.  Gr. 7 and up.

We hear the stories of five Bengali- American women in three different generations, spanning from the era of mini-skirts until just after the tragedy of 9/11.  Perkins weaves their stories together beautifully.  All of them question what it means to be Bengali or what it means to be American and each comes up with their own answers for themselves.  Some of the stories are heart-breaking, but most are easy to empathize with.  A family tree at the beginning is a good key, but because it is there, the long-term romances are easy to foretell if they will end in marriage.  THOUGHTS   This is a great book that will bring a diversity of characters to your library.  It is also a beautifully told story.

Realistic Fiction      Toni Vahlsing, Abington Friends School

 

Common, MacKenzie. The Lives of Desperate Girls. Penguin Random House, 2017. 9780143198710. $16.99. 304 p. Gr. 9 and up.

Tragedy befalls two girls in rural Northern Ontario, but the reaction of the police and the public is different in each case.  When pretty and wealthy Chloe Shaughnessy goes missing the police investigate in earnest, and the townspeople hold vigils for her safe return. A few days after her disappearance,  the body of  Helen Commanda, a girl from the reservation, is found in the woods. There is no public outcry about this crime, and when the police find no obvious clues, her case is placed on the backburner.   Chloe’s best friend Jenny, now friendless and depressed, becomes obsessed with Helen’s murder and the entrenched racism against the natives in their town. Jenny takes up with the high school bad boy, and together they set out to discover what really happened on the night Helen died. But as the police continue to focus on Chloe’s disappearance, Jenny is equally determined to protect Chloe’s secrets. Thoughts: The novel broaches some serious issues including date rape, racism, and substance abuse, but the character and plot development fall a little short.  A secondary choice for older teens who appreciate realistic fiction with a hard edge.

Mystery        Nancy Summers, Abington School District

YA NF – Undefeated; Fetch

Sheinkin, Steve. Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team. Roaring Brook Press, 2017. 978-1-59643-954-2. 280 p. $19.99. Gr. 7-12.

Known for his fast-paced and fascinating nonfiction narratives, Sheinkin delivers another well-researched, action-packed story in his newest title. In it, he ties together not only the story of Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School football team, but also the stories of American football, Pop Warner, and Native American relations throughout U.S. history.  Sheinkin begins by providing biographical information about the early lives of Jim Thorpe and Pop Warner, as well as background information about the attitudes of white Americans towards Native Americans at that time and the founding of the Carlisle Indian School.  The lives of Thorpe and Warner ultimately intersect when Warner becomes Thorpe’s football coach at Carlisle, at which point the action really picks up.  Sheinkin moves season-by-season through Carlisle’s football history, explaining how its innovative coaches and players helped to modernize the game of football as we know it today, all while passively ignoring acts of discrimination like one-sided officiating and racist headlines.  Reading like a Hollywood underdog story, but sprinkled with factual information about the history of football and Native American relations, this title is a must-have for any school library.  THOUGHTS: Having read and enjoyed some of Sheinkin’s past award-winning titles, I was looking forward to reading this one, and he did not disappoint.  Sports fans, history buffs, and readers of biographies alike will find this book absolutely riveting.  It could be used in a classroom setting to spark discussion about racism and discrimination or paired with a fiction title like Joseph Bruchac’s Code Talker for a unit on Native American history.

796.332 Football; Native Americans      Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area SD

 

Georges, Nicole J. Fetch: How a Bad Dog Brought Me Home, a Graphic Memoir. Mariner Books, 2017. 978-0-544-57783-1. 314 pp. $17.95. Gr. 10+.

At sixteen, Nicole Georges adopted a shar pei/dachshund mix puppy as a surprise for her boyfriend, Tom. Beija was meant to cement their bond and heal Tom’s childhood wounds, but the real bond formed between Nicole and her dog. A move to Portland and a break-up later, Nicole knows full well that Beija is no ordinary, well-behaved pet. She’s almost comically bent on misbehaving: baying, marking, and growling at all the wrong times and with all the wrong people. Nonetheless, she is Nicole’s beloved co-pilot through the generally painful process of growing up (and coming out), with the inevitable heartbreaking goodbye at the book’s end. Nicole’s journey through her teens and twenties is depicted in the author’s sharp, wonderfully expressive black-and-white illustrations. Beija in particular is lovingly drawn and charismatic. THOUGHTS: Equal parts soul searching and soul baring, Fetch is every bit as good as David Small’s Stitches and Ellen Forney’s Marbles, with the bonus presence of an unforgettable canine companion.

Graphic Memoir     Amy V. Pickett, Ridley School District

 

Series NF for Grades 6-12 – People of America; Captured History

sioux

Peoples of North America. Mankato, MN: Creative Education, 2016. $26.95 ea. 48p. Gr. 7 and up.

Bodden, Valerie. Apache. 978-1-60818-550-4.

Bodden, Valerie. Cherokee. 978-1-60818-551-1.

Bodden, Valerie. Navajo. 978-1-60818-553-5.

Bodden, Valerie. Nez Perce. 978-1-60818-554-2.

Bodden, Valerie. Sioux. 978-1-60818-555-9.

Potts, Steve. Iroquois. 978-1-608181-552-8.

Peoples of North America focuses on the importance of various tribes of North America, a subject not often covered for junior high and high school students.  Each title in this series focuses on a different tribe and includes the history of the tribe, lifestyle, traditions and culture, and the changes the tribe has faced due to westward expansion and the development of the United States (historically and today).  A traditional story from the tribe ends each title, which also includes end notes, a selected bibliography, information for further research, and an index.  The inclusion of photographs, both color and black and white, and illustrations enhance reader understanding of the importance of each tribe to American history and culture.  THOUGHTS:  Not many books are written about Native Americans for high school students, and it seems that these people, who are most important to our history, are often overlooked or quickly taught.  This is series is excellent for research projects and general reading to find out more about Native Americans and their impact in history and today.

American History; Native Americans      Erin Parkinson, Lincoln JSHS, Ellwood City

 

shadowcatcher

Captured History. North Mankato, MN: Compass Point Books, 2015. $25.49 ea. 64p. Gr. 6 and up.

Burgan, Michael. Shadow Catcher: How Edward S. Curtis Documented American Indian Dignity and Beauty. 978-0-7565-4992-3.

Nardo, Don. The Golden Spike: How a Photograph Celebrated the Transcontinental Railroad. 978-0-7565-4991-6.

Captured History is one of the best series for middle and high school students.  Begun in 2011, this year’s additions, Shadow Catcher and The Golden Spike, only reinforce the importance of this series to support curriculum, research, and curiosity.  Each title in this series explores a specific aspect of American history through the photographs (by a specific photographer) from the situation and/or period.  Titles are broken into four chapters focused on the history, the event, and the impact on society today along with a timeline, glossary, additional resources, source notes, a selected bibliography, and index.  The use of border white-space enhances the text and photographs in order to fully grasp the event being explained.  The photography is beautiful and is a great way to help teach primary sources and visual reading.  The two new titles are especially important because they focus on historic events that are often overlooked or quickly taught in U.S. History courses: Native Americans and the Transcontinental Railroad.  THOUGHTS:  Captured History is a MUST-HAVE series for all school libraries.

American History      Erin Parkinson, Lincoln JSHS, Ellwood City