Saturday, March 1, 2008

When the Shadbush blooms, by Carla Messinger, illustrated by David Kanietakeron Fadden - review

When the Shadbush Blooms, by Carla Messinger, with Susan Katz, illustrated by David Kanietakeron Fadden

"My grandparents' grandparents walked beside the same stream where I walk with my brother, and we can see what they saw."

Clever. Not to mention interesting, cadenced, and grounded. This book takes us through the cycles of the year as defined by the Lenni Lenape people, Native people who originally lived along the eastern seaboard of North America. Each page spread shows the sights and activities of the season - on the left, as experienced by "my grandparents' grandparents" and on the right as experienced by a modern-day Native girl and her family.

Carla Messinger, an educator and museum professional, links the past with the present in a homely, happy, and extremely skillful way. Much of the American landscape has been altered in the six generations expressed by "my grandparents' grandparents," but this book encourages families to look beyond the built environment to discern what has persisted, and to think about how that landscape might have been experienced by those who lived here before. There's a place outside of Cleveland, quite near the nuclear power plant, actually, where you can see lush green forests and Lake Erie in the distance. Every time I passed by Perry, Ohio, I would think, "If I were a hunter-gatherer, I would take one look at this spot and call it home."

There's more information about the Lenni Lenape in the back. "American Girl," indeed!

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