Sunday, March 18, 2007

The 2004 HarperCollins edition of Little House on the Prairie is marketed as a "FULL-COLOR COLLECTOR'S EDITION."

Shown here is page 139. These Indians have entered Laura's house, unbidden.

The text describes them on page 137 with these passages:

"The naked wild men stood by the fireplace."

"Laura ran toward Ma, but just as she reached the hearth she smelled a horribly bad smell and she looked up at the Indians."

And, on page 138:

"Around their waists each of the Indians wore a leather thong, and the furry skin of a small animal hung down in front. The fur was striped black and white, and now Laura knew what made that smell. The skins were fresh skunk skins."

Based on the setting and time period, and specific references in the text, I think these two Indian men are Osage. Below is something to think about, as you look at this illustration and read the accompanying passages...

"A horribly bad smell"

Laura realizes the smell is from the skunk skins. Apparently, these men are unskilled hunters. They've killed skunks, and skinned them. In that process, they ruptured the glands that hold the pungent skunk odor. But they are, apparently, immune to that odor. They seem not to notice it, or perhaps they don't care. Either way, Wilder deftly and powerfully constructs Indian people as barbaric, savage, primitive. It is an inaccurate and inappropriate representation, in text and illustration.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Danny and the Dinosaur

Here we have a page from a very popular children's easy reader, Danny and the Dinosaur, by Syd Hoff. At this point in the story, Danny is inside a museum, which I presume to be a Natural History Museum, where

He sees Indians.
He sees bears.
He sees Eskimos.

American Indians are often placed in Natural History Museums, set amongst the animals, which suggests our oneness with nature??? Or with the dinosaurs, which suggests our extinctness???

"Imitating Indians" in Sendak's ALLIGATORS ALL AROUND

Shown here is a page from Maurice Sendak's alphabet book, Alligators All Around, reprinted in 1991 by HarperTrophy. These 'gators sport different headdresses. The little fellow must be smoking a "peace pipe" but it looks more like a sax to me. The one with all his sharp teeth showing has a tomahawk. Problems abound with this! Objectifying, dehumanizing. From what I've seen, most alphabet books are staying clear of this practice, but these older volumes are still in wide circulation. There is, for example, a lesson plan on the ReadWriteThink pages (cosponsored by the National Council for Teachers of English and the International Reading Association) that uses this book to teach kids alliteration. I wonder what teachers do when they get to this page? Breeze on through? Or use it as a teachable moment?

This is Grizzly Bob, from the popular Berenstein Bears series. This illustration is from Berenstein Bears go to Camp. Grizzly Bob is shown in a large feathered headdress, arms outstretched as he regales the cubs with a story. Not sure what that is supposed to be in his left paw. His attire suggests buckskin, plains style clothing, but the designs on them? Not sure what to make of that!


Here is Clifford, the Big Red Dog, from Norman Bridwell's Clifford's Halloween. The text reads "An Indian?" Clifford is shown in a feathered headdress of multi-colored feathers. In his mouth is what might be a "peace pipe" and he wears a white sheet, presumably meant to be a robe of some sort. Note, too, the "face paint" and the way his eyes and eyebrows are drawn. And the raised paw.... Is he saying "How?"