Before You Begin Cycle 3, Don't Forget the Native Americans - A Study of Joseph Bruchac

Cycle 3 begins with Columbus. There are so many problems with beginning a study of American history this way, but instead of listing those, let's be proactive and do something about it ourselves! Please enjoy my series on Native American texts to read before you begin Cycle 3.

The problem with choosing living books about Native Americans is that not many are actually by Native Americans. This brings up issues of authenticity. Furthermore, most of the books on the library shelves are historical fiction or folktales, which reinforces the stereotype that Native Americans lived in the past. There are very few books about life on the reservation today. One of my high school students actually thought the werewolves in Twilight couldn't possible live on an actual reservation because "those don't exist anymore." Apparently werewolves are more realistic/visible these days than an oppressed people group.

So what are we going to do? I am a Hermione, so as far as I'm concerned, books are always the first answer to every problem.

Joseph Bruchac is probably the most prolific Native American author in your library's Children's section. He shares stories not just from his Abenaki heritage but also Cherokee, Sioux, and a wide array of Native American cultures. It's worth the price of admission just to read his "Author's Note." He has titles in virtually every library branch in my city. I challenge you to search the B's for one of his titles.

First, Squanto's Story: The Story of the First Thanksgiving. I'm starting with this title intentionally. Usually, the third week of the November is the only time we discuss Native Americans. We can do better.


With that said, this book's illustrations by Greg Shed are lovely and airy. The story is really about Squanto's life, not Thanksgiving. It's told from his perspective, which I appreciate. The text is organized in paragraphs, sometimes with an entire page of text. This might feel daunting to a younger reader. I recommend this book, but please remember to try and incorporate Native American studies other times of the year - either before you begin Cycle 3 or during your Timeline studies.

As you read on Bruchac's website, he collected many animal and nature stories from tribes all around the country. Try to find one from your area! Scholastic's Map of North American Indian Tribes. will give you a place to start. You could also search for titles based on your children's favorite animals, foods, or games.



Strawberries are my favorite food, so The First Strawberries: A Cherokee Story jumped out at me. Again, the illustrations by Anna Vojtech are ethereal and pretty. I'm starting to wonder about this trend in Native American picture books. The story is a take on "Adam and Eve." The couple has their first fight. They are reunited in love by the Creator who uses strawberries to remind them of their sweetness toward one another before their argument. A heartwarming story with brief text in large font, very accessible for newer readers.

Join us next week for two more picture books by Joseph Bruchac, including my highest recommendation!

(Update: You can read a description of my favorite Bruchac book here, and please check out the bold designs of S.D. Nelson here, including what I consider to be the epitome of a living history book. My last post focuses on early elementary and YA finds.)

This post is a link-up with Living and Learning at Home's Trivium Tuesdays - Classical Link-Up #119 and Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood's Cycle 3 Weekly Link-Up: Week 1


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