Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Picture Book from the Past-A Treasure Found!

       Myra, Fats & Iphigene host this meme at Gathering Books, and today I'm reviewing Home to Medicine Mountain written by Chiori Santiago and illustrated by Judith Lowry, a recent discovery from my own school library!




       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. 



10 comments:

  1. Such a rich learning experience for the students! I love how these two books compliment one another, providing students two perspectives on the same period of our history. How powerful it must have been to have had the grandmother visit and tell the story personally!

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    1. It was a wonderful experience for us, Maureen. Thanks for stopping by.

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  2. I will have to get these books. My first teaching job was in the NWT over 30 years ago and I taught all native children. I loved my three years there. There was no high school in that native community and the children were all sent to Inuvik, hundreds of miles away for high school, put in boarding schools for the year. It was hard on these kids - many did not return after the first year.

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  3. I hope you might write about that time, Beverley. It sounds fascinating. I wonder if you're still in touch with some people there? I hope you will love these books!

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  4. There is one such school just a few miles north of here called Chilocco Indian School. This month there will be a large Pow Wow just up the road from my home.When you see the dances and hear the beat of their voice and drum in song, I cannot imagine why anyone would have wanted to "strip" their children of such a beautiful and meaningful heritage and life.

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    1. Tammy, thank you for telling me about this. I know of another that we've driven by in Lawrence, Kansas. It is a college now, but still retains the name of 'Indian' school. Yes, I agree, but times were different long ago, weren't they?

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  5. Linda, thank you so much for including this book in our AWB database! It actually reminded me of the Caldecott Honor book, "Annie and the Old One" - have you read that one yet?

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    1. Thanks Myra-yes, I know Annie And The Old One, but thanks for connecting with it, too.

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  6. Picture books are a wonderful way to introduce a topic before delving into a longer book. This looks like a winning combination. Our children need to know about injustices. Hopefully, these reading experiences and thoughtful discussions will help change the world.

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    1. Thanks, Joyce-I agree that the shorter books help bridge to longer ones with more information about the topic. Good to connect them!

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Having a conversation is a good thing!