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?"