Big Breath – Perfect Picture Book Friday

Title: Big Breath, A Guided Meditation for Kids

Author: William Meyer

Illustrator: Brittany R. Jacobs

 Publisher: New World Library, Aug. 2019

Ages: 4-7

Genre: Nonfiction

Themes: meditation, relaxation, breathing

Opening:

Find a comfy spot,
Maybe on a squishy cushion, or a comfy blanket.

Synopsis:

Each page invites readers to notice the present moment without judging what is or changing it to something else.

Why I like this book:

I returned to meditating a couple of years back when I was going through a very stressful time in my life, and honestly, even as an adult, I could have used this gentle message to get me going again. I love the calming tone of the words. It feels natural, easy to follow, and inviting.

Does your breath sound like ocean waves? Like the wind before a storm or a breeze at the start of spring? Can you feel it all the way down to the tips of your toes?

By the time you open your eyes, you might just feel a little lighter, calmer, more relaxed.

This is a great book for teachers and caregivers for their children as we look for ways to bring calm and focus into a speedy world! This focus on mindfulness and meditation is really for all ages, for antsy as well as quiet kids. Brittany does an amazing job of enticing and soothing illustrations supporting a text that is obviously less active than many picture books. A winner.

Activities/resources:

Put this into praise with one child or a group. Join in yourself.

Each week a group of bloggers reviews picture books we feel would make great educational reads. To help teachers, caregivers and parents, we have included resources and/or activities with each of our reviews. A complete list of the thousands of books we have reviewed can be found sorted alphabetically and by topics, here on Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

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Squanto’s Journey – Perfect Picture Book Friday (Thanksgiving)

Title: Squanto’s Journey, The Story of the First Thanksgiving

Author: Joseph Bruchac

Illustrator: Greg Shed

 Publisher: Silver Whistle, Harcourt Inc, 2000

Ages: 7-11

Genre: Nonfiction

Themes: Native American History, Native American Month, Thanksgiving, Squanto, Thanksgiving

Opening:

My story is both strange and true. I was born in the year the English call 1590. My family were leaders of the Patuxet people and I, too, was raised to lead. But in 1614 I was taken to Spain against my will. Now it is 1621 and I am again in my homeland. My name is Squanto. I would like to tell you my tale.

Synopsis:

In 1620 an English ship called the Mayflower landed on the shores inhabited by the Pokanoket people, and it was Squanto who welcomed the newcomers and taught them how to survive in the rugged land they called Plymouth. He showed them how to plant corn, beans, and squash, and how to hunt and fish. And when a good harvest was gathered in the fall, the two peoples feasted together in the spirit of peace and brotherhood.
Almost four hundred years later, the tradition continues. . . .

Why I like this book:

As Bruchac notes in his afterword to this excellent picture-book, this Thanksgiving story is seldom told from the Native American perspective, and is usually marred by gross historical and cultural inaccuracies. Squanto’s Journey is an excellent corrective for some of the misinformation currently available, telling of the life story of Tisquantum (Squanto), a member of the Patuxet nation, whose role in befriending the English settlers of Plymouth would prove so fateful.

Young readers will perhaps be surprised to learn that Squanto was kidnapped by an English captain, sold as a slave to the Spanish, and that, when he was finally able to return to his homeland having seen much of Spain and England and having learned both languages, discovered most of his people had been killed by diseases brought to the Americas by European settlers.

Despite this horrifying history, Squanto believed in the possibilities of peace and friendship, and when the settlers at Plymouth needed his help, he gave it freely. This moving story of a true pniese, or man of honor, who never allowed suffering to embitter him, is matter-of-fact and realistic, without being brutal. Accompanied by Greg Shed’s gorgeous gouache illustrations, Squanto’s Journey should be required reading for anyone who thinks that being thankful requires forgetting the truth..

Of course, this was not the first Thanksgiving, but the myth around these events proved part the inspiration in middle of the American Civil War, for President Abraham Lincoln, proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day, to be celebrated on the 26th, the final Thursday of November 1863 to rally the Yankees. The only thing that I found myself wanting in this story was a little bit more emotion in the tone, but I am sure this was intentional on Bruchac’s part and is maybe indicative of Native American storytelling?

Activities/resources:

Recommended for older children above the ages of seven, as the narrative is substantial, dense, with much potentially novel vocabulary, not to mention that Squanto’s Journey will engender questions, discussions, debates and additional research (and Squanto’s Journey would also be a good and essential teaching resource for a unit on Thanksgiving or Native American history, yet another reason why I strongly do think a bibliography should have been included, as it would have very much increased the book’s teaching, learning and supplemental research value). 

I would pare this with The National Geographic nonfiction book, 1621, A New Look at Thanksgiving.

Each week a group of bloggers reviews picture books we feel would make great educational reads. To help teachers, caregivers and parents, we have included resources and/or activities with each of our reviews. A complete list of the thousands of books we have reviewed can be found sorted alphabetically and by topics, here on Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

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Indian No More – Book Recommendation

Title: Indian No More

Authors: Charlene Willing McMannis and Traci Sorrell

 Publisher: Tu Books, 2019

Ages: 8-11

Genre: Middle Grade Historical Fiction

Themes: Native American Indians, Native American Month, #ownvoices, termination era, racism, Federal Indian Relocation Program

Opening:

Before being terminated. I was Indian.

Synopsis:

Regina Petit’s family has always been Umpqua, and living on the Grand Ronde reservation is all ten-year-old Regina has ever known. Her biggest worry is that Sasquatch may actually exist out in the forest. But when the federal government signs a bill into law that says Regina’s tribe no longer exists, Regina becomes “Indian no more” overnight–even though she was given a number by the Bureau of Indian Affairs that counted her as Indian, even though she lives with her tribe and practices tribal customs, and even though her ancestors were Indian for countless generations.

With no good jobs available in Oregon, Regina’s father signs the family up for the Indian Relocation program and moves them to Los Angeles. Regina finds a whole new world in her neighborhood on 58th Place. She’s never met kids of other races, and they’ve never met a real Indian. For the first time in her life, Regina comes face to face with the viciousness of racism, personally and toward her new friends.

Meanwhile, her father believes that if he works hard, their family will be treated just like white Americans. But it’s not that easy. It’s 1957 during the Civil Rights Era. The family struggles without their tribal community and land. At least Regina has her grandmother, Chich, and her stories. At least they are all together. (Publisher)

Why I like this book:

With a great opening line (see above), McManis introduces us to the first person POV of Regina and her PNW Umqua family and tribal roots. McManis includes lots of details of daily and family life and compares Regina’s Rez school with the public elementary school she now attends in L.A. Chich, (Regian’s grandma) often adds a deeper cultural perspective as do the inclusion of some Chinuk Wawa words in conversations (translated where necessary for clarity).

The racist incidents Regina and her family face in this novel are sadly too similar to the injustices Native Americans still face today. When Regina and her family relocate from Oregon to L.A., they leave everything familiar behind them to find themselves in a multicultural city and neighborhood surrounded by the dominant WASP culture. The new law means Regina is “Indian no more” and the family must become “Americans”… a strange concept to kids who are just beginning to understand their own identity. She discovers she isn’t Indian enough for her friends, but too ethnic for many others. It’s a slow journey toward the truth that different is not wrong.

This is a touching historical middle-grade novel drawn from author Charlene Willing McManis’s own tribal history, and co-written by a second Native Nations author. “Own voices” stories are important, and I hope we will continue to see more from the Native American community. I am sorry that Charlene Willing McManis passed away last year before the final revisions for the novel. The young protagonist Regina faces identity and family questions that will resonate with most middle grade students, and perhaps especially those from minorities and immigrants. This specific Native American history is also so important and deserves its place in every elementary school in the nation. As a Brit, I knew nothing about this Relocation law and its attempts to eradicate indigenous identity, and there are great explanations of it in the beginning and in the back matter. 

This is a great addition to school shelves especially as part of celebrating Native American month.

Activities/resources:

The book includes a map of the family’s trip from Oregon to Los Angeles. In the back is a Glossary, Author’s Note with photos, Co-Author’s Note (Unfortunately, McManis passed away while this book was being published; Traci Sorrell, enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation, completed it.), Editor’s Note, and text for the folk tale “The Beaver and the Coyote”. The cover art is by Marlena Myles (Spirit Lake Dakota, Mohegan, Muscogee Creek). 

You could pair this with My Name is Not Easy by Debby Dahl Edwardson.

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