I love when I find a picture book that connects with a book I use for book groups. Sometimes it’s easy, and sometimes it isn’t. Recently, in my browsing of our school library, I found Home To Medicine Mountain, written by Chiori Santiago and illustrated by Judith Lowry. Next time I have a group that reads When The Legends Die by Hal Borland, we will begin with this shorter story about Native American children who were forced to attend government-run Indian residential schools. These schools were created to make the children un-learn their Indian ways.
|This book won the American Book Award in 1999 and is an American Library Association notable book.|
One time when I read When The Legends Die with students, I discovered that one of my student’s grandmothers was such a child, and she came in to speak with the students about her experience. The conversation was like the book came to life, for she told of being taken away, was so very homesick, and then had to learn English, wear uncomfortable clothes and shoes, and eat strange food. It was an unforgettable conversation.
This picture book tells a similar story and is based on the stories Native American artist Judith Lowry’s father and Uncle Stanley told her. They lived in California, and were placed in a boarding school far south of their home in the northern part of the state. Children’s train fares were paid to get to the schools, but not for returning home in the summers. These very young boys decided to ride the rails, and the book tells of the family times they missed so much, like their grandmother’s stories, and of that first time going home. If you think about it, imagine two young boys today jumping on a boxcar, to try to get home hundreds of miles away. It’s quite an adventure to be praised, and I’m so happy to have found this beautiful story.
The back of the book tells about the artist, the writer, of mixed heritage, and shows a picture of the father and uncle as older men. The illustrations are beautiful full page spreads, adding much to the story of homesickness, harshness of the school’s approach, and the warmth of the boys’ home background of family and traditions.