Review: Paiute Princess by Deborah Kogan Ray

 

 

  Title: Paiute Princess

  Author: Deborah Kogan Ray

  Publisher:  Farrar Straus Giroux

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Born into the Northern Paiute tribe of Nevada in 1844, Sarah Winnemucca straddled two cultures: the traditional life of her people, and the modern ways of her grandfather’s white friends. Sarah was smart and good at languages, so she was able to link the worlds. As she became older, this made her a great leader. Sarah used condemning letters, fiery speeches, and her autobiography, Life Among the Piutes, to provide detailed accounts of her people’s turmoil through years of starvation, unjust relocations, and violent attacks. With sweeping illustrations and extensive backmatter, including hand-drawn maps, a chronology, archival photographs, an author’s notes, and additional resource information, Deborah Kogan Ray offers a remarkable look at an underrepresented historical figure.

Review:

I have had Paiute Princess on my TBR for a while now, and after reading Black Elk’s Vision, I was inspired to pick it up.  Sarah Winnemucca’s life is told through vivid, lush illustrations that accompany the moving prose of her life.  From her early childhood gathering food with the women of her tribe to her struggles to keep her traditional way of life from being erased by the encroaching white settlers, all Sarah wanted was the peaceful life her tribe had enjoyed for generations.  This was not be to, however, and she was forced to watch as her people were moved from their tribal homelands to reservations.  Once on the barren lands allotted to the Paiute tribes, they suffered from the corruption of the men running the Indian Agency.  Hardship and hunger became her new way of life, and Sarah used every scrap of cleverness she could muster to lobby for aid for her people. 

I am not sure how to rate this book, because it made me feel many, many emotions, mostly sadness and despair.  Once again, I wonder how I would have handled the cruel fate handed out to Sarah Winnemucca and her people.  They were stolen from, lied to, and left without the resources to provide for themselves after their land was taken away, often after the murder of women, children, and the elderly.  This chapter in the story of this nation makes me angry and upset because I know that we are better than that; we are supposed to be the good guys.  After learning about the struggles Sarah faced, and the courage she displayed, I doubt that I would  have been as clever and resourceful as she was.  Could I have been an Army scout, riding into danger and helping the people who were responsible for stealing my way of life away from me?  Could I have left my family for extended periods to study with people who viewed me with suspicion and dislike? I don’t think so.

The story ends on a hopeful note, but after reading the included information at the back of the book, it was clear that Sarah was not accepted in either the world of the Paiute or the world of the white settlers.  She walked firmly between the two, searching for a place where she belonged.  Her grandfather was a wise man, but not even his initial acceptance of the settlers and his letter of friendship from explorer John Charles Fremont could save the tribal lands of his people.  I think what bothered me the most about this picture book was learning that, after fighting for the rights of her people, Sarah died in 1891.  She was 47.  The government was still enacting legislation to liberate the traditional homelands of native peoples and forcibly stamp out their cultures.  This continued until 1934.  This bothered me.  A. Lot.

Grade:  B/B+

Review copy provided by publisher

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Cover Shot! Buffalo Bird Girl by S D Nelson

Cover Shot! is a regular feature here at the Café. I love discovering new covers, and when I find them, I like to share. More than anything else, I am consumed with the mystery that each new discovery represents. There is an allure to a beautiful cover. Will the story contained under the pages live up to promise of the gorgeous cover art?

I seem to be on a Native American reading kick.  The last three picture books I read were biographies of prominent Native Americans, and even though I find  them heartbreaking, I can’t stop reading them.  I am drawn to the strength of character that each possessed, and wonder how I would have carried on if I were in their shoes.  Not nearly as well, I am sure.  I don’t know much about the Hidatsa, so I am looking forward to reading Buffalo Bird Girl by S D Nelson.

This fascinating picture book biography tells the childhood story of Buffalo Bird Woman, a Hidatsa Indian born around 1839. Through her true story, readers will learn what it was like to be part of this Native American community that lived along the Missouri River in the Dakotas, a society that depended more on agriculture for food and survival than on hunting. Children will relate to Buffalo Bird Girl’s routine of chores and playing with friends, and they will also be captivated by her lifestyle and the dangers that came with it.

Using as a resource the works of Gilbert L. Wilson, who met Buffalo Bird Woman and transcribed her life’s story in the early 20th century, award-winning author-illustrator S. D. Nelson has captured the spirit of Buffalo Bird Girl and her lost way of life. The book includes a historical timeline.

In stores October 2012

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Review: Black Elk’s Vision: A Lakota Story by S D Nelson

  

   Title: Black Elk’s Vision: A Lakota Story

   Author: S D Nelson

   Publisher: Abrams

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Told from the Native American point of view, Black Elk’s Vision provides a unique perspective on American history.

From recounting the visions Black Elk had as a young boy, to his involvement in the battles of Little Big Horn and Wounded Knee, as well as his journeys to New York City and Europe with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, this biographical account of Black Elk—an Oglala-Lakota medicine man (1863–1950)—follows him from childhood through adulthood.

S. D. Nelson tells the story of Black Elk through the medicine man’s voice, bringing to life what it was like to be Native American in the mid-to-late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. The Native people found their land overrun by the Wha-shi-choos, or White Man, the buffalo slaughtered for sport and to purposely eliminate their main food source, and their people gathered onto reservations. Through it all, Black Elk clung to his childhood visions that planted the seeds to help his people—and all people—understand their place in the circle of life.

The book includes archival images, a timeline, a bibliography, an index, and Nelson’s signature art.

Review:

I read two books recently about young children victimized by war, and they both broke my heart.  In Black Elk’s Vision, a picture book based on Black Elk Speaks by John Neihardt, warfare destroys not only Black Elk’s home, but also his people’s entire way of life.  From the cover to the last page, this colorful book is striking and thought provoking.  It doesn’t pull any punches, either.  From Little Big Horn to the massacre at Wounded Knee, Black Elk’s story is compelling and unforgettable.  From the vast plains, hunting buffalo, to the hardship of a walled reservation, his words remain steady and engrossing.  I am not sure that I would be as forgiving as Black Elk, Great Vision or not.  Manifest Destiny is such an ugly chapter in the history of this country, and I find it painful to read many accounts of settlers as they steamrolled over everything in their path to conquering the West. 

There are several parts of this book that I found disturbing, and I am sure that I will find them hard to forget.  Before the white settlers flooded like a tsunami over the Great Plains, there were an estimated 30 million bison.  Thirty million.  By 1889, there were about a thousand.  The numbers are mind-numbing.  Worse, diseases brought by Europeans wiped out hundreds of thousands of Native Americans. And that was before the settlers began to intentionally drive them off of their ancestral homelands.   Thinking about the massive loss of life is nauseating.   Thinking about a twelve year old boy forced to defend his life, as well as the lives of his family, is also upsetting.  Thinking about having everything you owned, every belief and physical possession, even your way of life, torn away  also merits deep contemplation.  I would not have survived nearly as well, or lived nearly as gracefully, as Black Elk. 

I found Black Elk’s Vision a compelling read.  Interspersing colorful acrylics with vintage photos of the events described in Black Elk’s narrative, I found this book hard to put down.  I also found myself going back to key passages, illustrations, and photos to ensure that I absorbed everything.   From the photograph of Black Elk on the cover to the portrait of his family near the end, this is a haunting book.  Black Elk believed that all of us have a part in the circle of life.  We can all hold weapons of destruction or the sacred water of life.  Each of us carries the power to nurture or destroy.  Black Elk choose the cup of life, and he wished that all of us would choose it as well.    

Grade:  B+

Review obtained from my local library

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Picture Book Review: Domo in the World


Title: Domo in the World

Photographs by Iain Browne

Text by Kate T. Williamson

Publisher: Abrams Image

ISBN:978-0810998155

Board book

All ages

For some weird reason that I can’t quite decipher, I have become alarmingly fond of Domo-kun.  I don’t know what Domo is, I don’t know if anyone does, and yet I can’t help but laugh every time I see the odd, sponge shape that is Domo.  Perhaps this haiku will help find some reason for my Domo affection:

Those glossy black eyes? 

Delightfully full of play.

Maybe you should floss?

Or as I am confused by Domo’s gender:

Is Domo a boy?

Or could  Domo be a girl? 

Does it matter which?

This board book follows Domo through the seasons, with adorable photos featuring the fuzzy creature.  The haiku is occasionally silly and made me laugh aloud, but the humor will go over the heads of most younger readers.  The colorful images should delight, though, and if you have a small child you want to brainwash with Japanese pop culture, this is a good choice to begin the subtle encouragement towards an appreciation for all things anime- and manga-inspired. 

Did I like this book?

Photos made me smile a lot

Haiku made me laugh

Review copy provided by publisher

Picture Book Review–Memoirs of a Goldfish by Devin Scillian and Tim Bowers

 

 

Title: Memoirs of a Goldfish

Author: Devin Scillian

Illustrator: Tim Bowers

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press

ISBN: 978-1585365074

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Day One
I swam around my bowl.

Day Two
I swam around my bowl. Twice.

And so it goes in this tell-all tale from a goldfish.

With his bowl to himself and his simple routine, Goldfish loves his life until one day.

When assorted intruders including a hyperactive bubbler, a grime-eating snail, a pair of amorous guppies, and a really crabby crab invade his personal space and bowl, Goldfish is put out, to say the least. He wants none of it, preferring his former peace and quiet and solitude.

But time away from his new companions gives him a chance to rethink the pros and cons of a solitary life. And discover what he’s been missing.

Review:

Aw, this is a very cute book!  I loved it!  The art is fantastic, and the narrative had me laughing out loud.  Goldfish goes from being the sole occupant of his bowl, to feeling a bit squeezed in his home when one new addition after another is introduced into his space.  Some of his new neighbors aren’t very friendly, either!  Goldfish is stressed with the overcrowding, and all he wants is some privacy.  But during a moment of quiet reflection, he realizes that being all alone in his bowl isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. 

The story is light and humorous, and the art is a perfect fit.  Facial expressions make the book – poor Goldfish goes from content but bored to unhappy and even angry as his swimming area is reduced with every new arrival.  After he learns the importance of friends, and gets some bigger digs, he is one happy fish again.  The vivid illustrations pop off of the pages, and I can’t imagine anybody being able to resist Goldfish or his memoirs.  I was happy to see that both creators have an extensive backlist, which I will be exploring.  Soon!

Grade: A

Review copy obtained from my local library

Picture Book Review: Substitute Creacher by Chris Gall

 

Title: Substitute Creacher

Author: Chris Gall

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

ISBN: 978-0316089159

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

The troublemaking students of Ms. Jenkins’ class arrive at school one day to discover a substitute creacher has come to put a stop to their monkey business! He regales them with mind-boggling stories about his former students who didn’t follow the rules: Keith the glue-eater, Zach the daydreamer, and Hank the prankster, to name a few. But even this multi-tentacled, yellow-spotted, one-eyed monster’s cautionary tales about the consequences of mischief-making can’t seem to change the students’ wicked ways until he reveals the spookiest and most surprising story of all: his own.

Chris Gall’s vibrant artwork leaps off the page with a dynamic comic book aesthetic that will grab both parents and monster-loving kids!

Review:

I love the premise of Substitute Creacher.  Ms. Jenkins’ class is full of very naughty and very unrepentant children.  One day in late October, these misbehaving kids discover a surprise – they are going to have a substitute teacher!  Nothing prepares them for the creacher – er, teacher – who lumbers through the door.  Mr. Creacher is green, he has eight legs, and he has eyes in the back of his head. Literally!  Will he be able to gain control of Ms. Jenkins unruly class?

While I loved the art, the rhyming prose seemed a little forced, and it didn’t flow smoothly.  Mr. Creacher tries some tough love on his misbehaving children, sharing with them the fates of previous delinquents he’s taught over the years.  There was the boy who brought a shark to class,  the sad, sad tale of Keith, a boy who wouldn’t stop eating glue, as well as a few other miscreants who were so naughty that they met with a dreadful end. 

Mr. Creacher’s portfolio of rascals is amusing, and the prose is lively and humorous.  The rhymes didn’t always work for me, but the illustrations make this book a winner.  The large, eye-catching pictures chronicle the fates of previous naughty kids in vivid, action-packed panels that are reminiscent of a vintage comic book.  Boys will eat this book up.  The light horror elements and comic mayhem will keep them engaged to the end of the story.

Grade: B-

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Vampire Knight Vol 12 by Matsuri Hino

 

Title: Vampire Knight Vol 12

Author: Matsuri Hino

Publisher: Viz

ISBN: 978-1421539386

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Yuki and Zero lock eyes, but they turn away from each other. Yori wanders around the ballroom, and Sara Shirabuki finds and talks to her. She tries to lure Yori away, but is stopped by Zero, who grabs her wrist. Yuki squeezes through the throng to get to the fracas, and she convinces Zero to let go of Sara. Zero takes Yori away, while Sara asks Yuki if she wants to be her friend. Kaname arranges for Yuki to meet privately with Yori and Zero, but Zero declines. At the party, Sara Shirabuki’s Pureblood fiance, Ouri, goes missing, as well as a vampire hunter. A scent of blood suddenly fills the air, and Yuki goes to investigate while Kain finds the remains of the dead Pureblood hidden underneath a tablecloth. Yuki finds Zero and Kaien investigating the body of the dead hunter, who committed suicide after becoming a vampire.

Review:

Gah!  It seems that whenever I read a new volume of Vampire Knight, the first thing I do after I finish it is run to Amazon and see when the next one will be released.  Volume 13 won’t be in stores until October.  OCTOBER!  This is a series that I should accumulate a few volumes of before I dive into new material, but I can’t help myself!  Worse yet, I don’t know what keeps drawing me back to the title, again and again.  I occasionally find it confusing, and Yuki and Kaname’s relationship is icky when I really stop and think about it!

The revelation that Kaname and Yuki are brother and sister just freaks me out.  OK, so they aren’t human, but that’s still a relationship that makes me pause.  I don’t know that I can give Kaname my unwavering support now.  I don’t see him as having pure motivations anymore, especially not after this installment of the series.  He’s plotting something, something big, and something that I’m not sure I’m going to like.  And he’s treating Yuki like a cherished possession, like something to be coveted and hidden from others.  I have always thought him to be controlling, but now he’s bordering on overbearing.  Which really sucks because I do like him better than Zero, even if Zero does have a suitably intriguing and tragic past.  Ah!  This is so hard for me! In addition to the whole forbidden vibe to their relationship, I am seriously starting to wonder about Kaname and his morals.  I don’t think he’s a such a nice guy anymore, and this has got me wondering what the heck is going to happen next?

One concept that I love is the introduction of the jaded vampires.  They live practically forever, and after the centuries keep rolling by, life would get a trifle boring.  Add a few more hundred years to that, and it even starts to make sense that the older purebloods would start contemplating an end to their lives.  What would it be like to live forever?  To never have to worry about not having enough time to do everything that you wanted to do? At what point does that become a curse instead of a blessing?

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Picture Book Review: Rottweilers Are The Best!

 

Title: Rottweilers Are The Best!

Author:  Elaine Landau

Publisher: Lerner

ISBN: 978-0761350590

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

What’s that big dog with the powerful body and rusty orange markings? It’s the Rottweiler! Rottweilers are courageous dogs with an even temper and a great sense of humor. Their owners think they are the best dogs ever¯and it’s easy to see why. If you’re a Rotty fan, you’ll want to learn all about this breed, from its history as a working dog in the Roman Empire to its search and rescue service in World War I. You’ll also want to find out how to care for the Rottweiler. So check out this go-to guide for Rottweiler lovers¯and learn all about why Rottweilers are the best breed there is!

Review:

I saw this book at the library and promptly checked it out.  I didn’t even look at anything other than the puppy on the cover.  Yet again, my cover blinders dictated my reading material!  I wanted to see what the author had to say about Rotties, because I already know that they are the best dogs ever.  Even slightly socially awkward specimens like mine.  He has so many good qualities that I don’t mind occasionally overlooking the few bad ones when they rear their very ugly head.  But then again, I love my family dearly, and they aren’t always fun to hang out with, either!

This book covers basics about the breed; history, temperament, characteristics.  I agreed with everything mentioned, though I found that there is some information that is lacking.  Sadly lacking, in fact!  It brings up their thick double coats, but doesn’t mention how they slobber and drool on hot days, as they swelter in their fur.  We have to run the air conditioning when it gets too hot, because Buu becomes a moist ball of fur.  Especially around his neck.  If he leans on you and demands pets, you get soaked.  It’s kind of gross, but I must have gotten used to it, because I don’t even squirm when I end up with slobber pools on my clothes.  With that double coat, they also shed non-stop, even with frequent brushing. 

I like that the book stresses the importance of early training.  Every dog needs to learn basic commands, but it’s critical with larger breeds.  My Rottie is 120 pounds.  That’s a big, strong dog!  He needs to understand that he can’t just run around and do whatever he likes.  Getting tackled hurts.  Getting dragged across the lawn is embarrassing.  Buu has pretty good manners, but he gets a bit overprotective. Our house is his castle, too.  He hates when the UPS driver puts packages on the back deck.  That’s his deck!  How dare he put boxes on his deck!!  At least I always know when I’m getting a delivery.  Buu starts barking as soon as the truck stops.

The photographs are wonderful!  There are some great action shots, and some very cute cuddling shots.  For a big dog, Rotties love cuddles.  I don’t think people understand the awesomeness of Rottweiler cuddles.  This is a dog that is made to be hugged!  Solid, sturdy, just the right size for a hug and a kiss on the head.  Almost every picture portrays the dogs panting, with their tongues hanging out.  Yup, that is a Rottie, all right.  They are always panting, even with the A/C blasting solely for their benefit.

I enjoyed this book, but I am biased about the content. I believe that young readers who love dogs will most definitely like this book.  The page layouts are very attractive, it’s colorful, and the pictures are so engaging.  Read it, and you’ll agree that Rottweilers are the best dog ever!

Grade: A-

Review copy received from my local library