Sing Down the Moon 1992
Island of the Blue Dolphins 1987
Weight: 7 oz
Method of Disposal: Recycling
These two O’Dell books were popular amongst my peers growing up. I really do not remember how I felt about them as a child. I had to re-read them last month because I could not remember what they were about, and I know a lot of the magic was lost. I was not sure how to read it as an adult. I was pleased and excited that the lead characters were both strong-willed and courageous girls. It was a comforting juxtaposition to the likes of the Twilight series, where the lead girl is not independent or intelligent. I was glad to think that children were being introduced to Native American (for lack of better words) experiences, but equally concerned that they were being written by a non-native writer. The misinformation is spread early. I am glad O’Dell wrote about people in a positive and affirming manner, but it is disappointing that I did not grow up reading any award winning Native American authors. Kids should learn about The Trail of Tears and the destruction of life and land carried (being carried) out by white people. It is important, despite their youth, so that they can begin to see the world as it is and imagine it as it hopefully will be when they help reshape it.
In the spirit of America, the O’Dell books were offered up in our public schools, while we were also being embedded with racism. We sat in a circle singing “I’m an Indian Chief in my wigwam high, see my tom toms beat, hear my arrow fly. I ride my pony every day. I ride it fast and far away. I-yi-yi-yi-yi, I yi-yi-yi-yi, How.” I still remember it! What is that?! We learned it because we had a “real Indian” visiting our classroom! I went to Braves games and held my tom tom proudly in the air. I stomped all over Rock Eagle without thinking a thing about it. There was one group, Native Americans, not many tribes and many people. My mother had me read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, which was great, but I was getting mixed messages and not learning a whole lot. Does this begin to, kind of, explain my discomfort when re-reading O’Dell’s books? What was I willingly ingesting?
On a side note, I am not sure if children should or should not be allowed to write reviews about books online. They are horrible, sometimes wonderful, and almost always amusing. A lot of kids liked O’Dell, but the image above shows some of the comments from those who did not. Enjoy!