Halito Gianna: The Journey Continues by Becky Villareal

Halito Gianna: The Journey Continues

Becky Villareal, Author

CreateSpace, Fiction, Dec. 27, 2015

Suitable for Ages: 7-11

Themes: Exploring family roots, Multicultural, Mexican Americans, Native Americans, Mystery

Opening: Halito means hello in Choctaw, but I didn’t find that out for a long, long time. At least that’s how it seems when you’re still in school and having to go every single day of the year!

Synopsis: Gianna is a fourth grader who came to America from Mexico. She is very interested in exploring her family’s roots.  Her teacher announces that the class will celebrate Halloween with a Book March and students are encouraged to wear a costume that matches a character in a favorite book. Gianna wants to dress as a Native American girl to honor her favorite book, The Rough-Faced Girl. While she searches her attic for costume possibilities, she discovers an old trunk that is full of old family pictures of Mexico, passports, and memorabilia. She realizes how much she doesn’t know her family history. Her mama tells her that her father was a soldier at Fort Bliss in El Paso and was shipped overseas. He didn’t return and her mother never knew what happened to him. Gianna decides that she’s going to find out. With the help of the social studies teacher, she learns how to search information about her father on veteran’s sites. With her new best friend, Aponi, who is Native American and speaks Choctaw, she begins to learn about her friend’s culture.  Aponi helps Gianna with her search, which takes a very unexpected turn. Will Gianna find her father and solve the mystery for her mother?

Why I like this book:

Becky Villareal has written a captivating chapter book about a girl interested in researching her family roots, finding answers about her father’s disappearance and learning something more about her own identity. Halito Gianna: The Journey Continues is the second book in the Gianna The Great series. It teaches young readers about genealogy, history, solving a mystery and tolerance for different cultures.

Gianna Saldana is a curious, determined and kind-hearted girl. She befriends Aponi, the new girl who is shy and self-conscious. Both characters are from different family backgrounds. Gianna’s mother is a single parent raising her daughter alone. Aponi is from a very large family, many living in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.

The story is original and well-crafted, the plot is realistic and the ending will surprise and satisfy readers. It is an adventure story with a fun mystery to solve. Villareal incorporates both Spanish and Choctaw words throughout the story. The illustrations are colorful and cartoon-like. Verdict: This 37-page book will engage readers and is an excellent recommendation for reluctant readers.

Becky Enriquez Villareal is the author of Gianna the Great series. She was born in Dallas, Texas in 1954 to missionary parents. She grew up in several different Texas towns including McKinney. For twenty years she has taught early childhood in Dallas Independent School District. For the past ten years she has completed family research. The grandmother of three she enjoys writing and spending time with her family.

Resources: This is a wonderful discussion book for children and parents to explore their own family history. Answer your kids’ questions about your childhood and family life. Encourage them to interview their grandparents and great grandparents about their memories of family history so they have a sense of their roots.  They may be surprised about what they learn.  Visit Villareal‘s website, where kids can print out a variety of family trees and fill in their own family information.

Check other Middle Grade review links on author Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.

*I was provided with a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

The Mask that Sang by Susan Currie

mask-that-sang-518kxm1cjsl__sx346_bo1204203200_The Mask that Sang

Susan Currie, Author

Second Story Press, Fiction, Sep. 6, 2016

Suitable for Ages: 9-12

Themes: Bullying, Native American heritage, Family Relationships, Orphans, Residential Schools

Opening: Faster, faster! Cass kept scrambling past garbage cans and over cracked pavement, although her legs were dead stumps and her lungs screamed. The boys were close behind her, the same four who chased her home every day.

Book Synopsis: When Cass Foster’s estranged grandmother unexpectedly leaves her house and savings to Cass and her mom, it’s just the thing they need to change their lives. Cass is being bullied at school, and her mom just lost her job—again—so they pack up and move in. With the gift come more questions than answers for Cass.  Why is her mom reluctant to live there? Why was this relative kept so secret? Why won’t her mother read the sealed letter from her own mother?

While exploring her new room, Cass finds an intriguing and powerful mask in a drawer and she is inexplicably drawn to it. A strange relationship grows between Cass and the mask; it sings her songs, shows her visions of past traumas and encourages her to be brave when facing bullies. When Cass finds the mask gone, her quest to get it back leads to an unexpected discovery about her family’s Cayuga heritage that will bring her and her mother into the arms of a community that’s been waiting for them.

Why I like this book:

Susan Currie works magic in this multi-layered novel, that culminates in a touching and spiritual tale about Cass and her mother finding their roots in a Native American community. It is a journey of discovery that is richly textured with themes of bullying, family relationships and finding “home” in a very tight and loving community.

The characters are diverse, believable, and memorable. Cass is spunky 12-year-old, who sprints home from school dodging bullies that shout insults about her shoes and clothing, call her names, throw objects at her and knock her to the pavement. She’s not sorry to say goodbye to her old school and apartment and move to her very own home and a start fresh at school. Mom is an orphan who never knew her mother.  She’s resentful and reluctant to accept the house and money her “mother” leaves her. Cass quickly makes friends with a boy named Degan Hill, who is a talented artist in her class. She discovers that Degan is Native American, when Ellis, a classroom bully, makes racial slurs. Cass finds a kindred spirit in Degan. She confides to Degan about the mask singing and telling her things. Degan tells Cass that the mask she finds is a “false face” that can have a good or evil spirits running through it. Their friendship grows and a trust forms between them. Change comes for all the characters.

Readers will find themselves richly rewarded by this satisfying tale. The plot is engaging and well-paced with the right amount of tension to keep readers interested. It sheds light on a dark past in Canadian history. Cass is drawn to the mask she finds in her drawer. She is distraught when it is missing from her drawer. Even though the mask is gone, it continues to sing to her, encourages her to be brave, shows her visions of a past she doesn’t understand and leads her to its hiding place.  I like how the author brings the story full circle. This is an emotionally honest story filled with heart.

I urge you to check out a picture book I reviewed Oct. 21, I Am Not A Number by Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathy Kacer. The story focuses on the Indigenous children who were taken from their families in the 1920s and put in “residential schools” where they were forced to forget their heritage.  It is a good companion book for The Mask that Sang.

Susan Currie is a winner of Second Story Press’ Aboriginal Writing Contest, resulting in this, her second book. Her first book was Basket of Beethoven, published in 2001. She has an MA in children’s literature and has been an elementary teacher for 17 years. Susan is adopted and after discovering a birth aunt a few years ago, she subsequently learned about her Cayuga heritage. The Mask that Sang grew out of her experience of discovering her roots.

Check other Middle Grade review links on author Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.

Whispers of the Wolf

Native American Heritage Month 2015

Whispers of Wolf12019923_1153634834665819_1090367024691818742_nWhispers of the Wolf

Pauline Ts’o, Author and Illustrator

Wisdom Tales Press, Fiction, Oct. 7, 2015

Suitable for Ages: 4-8 years

Themes: Pueblo Indians, Southwest, Wolves, Human-animal relationships, Wildlife Rescue

Opening: “Over five hundred years ago, a Pueblo boy and his grandfather were looking for medicine plants high above their village.”

Synopsis: Two Birds, a shy Pueblo boy living in the desert southwest, discovers a whimpering wolf pup in a deep hole. The cub is weak and hardly moves. He asks Grandfather if he may rescue the pup. Two Birds nurses the wolf pup back to health. The wolf goes with Two Birds and his friend, Gray Bear, on hunting trips. A bond forms between Two Birds and his wolf as they explore the natural world together. He hears the wolf’s thoughts in “whispers” of the wind, sun and rain. He shares these  “whisper” stories with Gray Bear. Word spreads through the village and children come to listen to Two Birds’ stories. One night the wild wolves begin calling from a distance and Two Birds’ wolf responds. The wolf yearns to be free and Two Birds will have a decision to make.

Why I like this story:

Whispers of the Wolf is a gratifying portrayal of the community life of the Pueblo Indians in New Mexico and Arizona before the arrival of the Spanish explorers. Pauline Ts’o spent over ten years visiting with Pueblo families in their homes and learning about their strong sense of community. Read the “Author’s Note” at the beginning of the book to learn about her impressive research for this work of historical fiction.

The result is a heartwarming story about a shy boy trying to find his voice and place among his Pueblo community. When Two Birds finds the wolf pup, his unlikely relationship with the wolf helps him gain self-confidence and develop reverence and respect for the natural world. The characters are memorable and the storytelling will appeal to children and adults of all ages. Ts’o has written a beautiful tale about Native Americans tribes of the southwest. She captures the warmth and beauty of the Pueblo culture in her rich and lively illustrations.

Resources: There are “Notes on the Illustrations” that include fascinating details about the Pueblo culture, family life, adobe houses and living spaces, language, storytelling, traditions and wolves. There is also a map showing the tribal regions in North America. Visit Wisdom Tales Press for resources on American Indians and the Native American Heritage Month website for other resources.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books. 

Horse Raid – Multicultural Children’s Book Day

 

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January 27, 2015

Today I am a book reviewer for the Multicultural Children’s Book Day. It was founded “to spread the word and raise awareness about the importance of diversity in children’s literature.” Please check out the resources and websites listed at the end of my review.

Horse Raid 9781937786250_p0_v2_s260x420Horse Raid: The Making of a Warrior

Paul Goble, Author and Illustrator

Wisdom Tales Press, Fiction, June 2014

Pages: 44 hardcover

Finalist: Best Books Award 2014

Suitable for Ages: 6 and up

Themes: Native Americans of the plains, Horse raids, Culture, Coming of age, Warriors, Multicultural

Opening: “Be patient, my son, there is no hurry; the horses of our enemies, the Crows, will not walk away. They will be there next summer and the summer after.” My father’s answer was the same whenever I asked if I could go with the warriors to capture horses.

Publisher Synopsis: Young Lone Bull dreamed of becoming a warrior. For the tribes of the American plains in the Buffalo Days of pre-reservation life, horse raiding was a chance for men to show their courage and bravery in battle. But Lone Bull’s father had just refused to let him join the horse raid! How could he become a warrior if he remained at home? With the help of his grandfather, Lone Bull sneaks off to follow the other warriors. But will it all end in disaster?

What I like about this book:

  • It is written and illustrated by master storyteller Paul Goble, who has been drawn to the history, spirituality, culture and tales of Native Americans since he was a young child.
  • This new edition of Goble’s Lone Bull’s Horse Raid, was first published in 1973.  It features digitally enhanced artwork, completely revised text, and a new appealing layout.  You will want to spend time pouring over the intricate detail in of Goble’s signature illustrations rendered in earth tones. Goble’s use of white space adds to the simplicity and elegance of his colorful artwork.
  • This timeless coming-of-age story about a 14-year-old Sioux boy eager to become a warrior, will capture the hearts and imaginations of both children and adults alike. It is a rich experience of what life is like for a boy living on a reservation on the plains and what it takes to survive.
  • Horse Raid is a powerful and exciting tale right from the start. The narrative imparts a wealth of historical information and detail for those thirsty for folktales about Native Americans living on the plains. For instance I didn’t know that horse raids were the cause for most wars and served an honorable purpose among the different tribes.
  • The plot is engaging and packed with tension and action. Great pacing keeps readers in suspense throughout the story — especially during the horse raid.
  • The characters are well-developed. Lone Bull is an eager and determined boy who wants to prove his bravery and earn a place among his tribe.
  • I would classify this book as a chapter book, but it is an excellent book for parents and children to read and discuss together.

Horse RaidGoble 2

Resources: Make sure you read the Forward by Joseph Bruchac and the Author’s Note, which prepares the reader for horse raiding and its role among Native American tribes. Lone Bull was a Sioux Indian living on the Great Plains. Ask children if they lived with Lone Bull how would they hunt for food? What kind of home would they live in? What name would they choose for themselves? What would they name their horse? What brave thing could they do?  Have them draw pictures of themselves, and their horses, homes and village.  Educators may want to visit some of the following websites: Native American Indians Themes, Lessons, Printables and Teaching Ideas and American Indian Heritage Teaching Resources (Smithsonian Education).

Paul Goble is an award-winning author and illustrator of over 40 children’s books. He has created an outstanding body of work including his book, The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses, which won the prestigious Caldecott Medal, as well as Buffalo Woman, and Mystic Horse.

Joseph Bruchac is best known for his work as a Native writer and storyteller, with more than 120 books and many awards to his credit

Here are some ways you can help us celebrate Multicultural Children’s Book Day: 

  • Visit The Multicultural Children’s Book Day website (click on Blog) and view the book lists, reading resources and other useful multicultural information.
  • Visit the Multicultural Books for Kids Pinterest Board for more reading ideas.
  • Have children bring in their favorite multicultural book to school on this day and share it with the class.
  • Watch for the #ReadYourWorld hashtag on social media and share. They are hosting a Twitter party! Join them on Jan 27th 9:00pm EST. Use hashtag: #ReadYourWorld to win 10 book packages.
  • Visit the Diversity Book Lists and Resources for Educators and Parents on their website.
  • Visit MCCBD sponsors. You can find them HERE
  • Connect with them on their new Facebook and Twitter  pages.

MCCBD’s 2015 Sponsors include Platinum Sponsors: Wisdom Tales Press, Daybreak Press Global Bookshop, Gold Sponsors: Satya House, MulticulturalKids.com, Author Stephen Hodges and the Magic Poof, Silver Sponsors: Junior Library Guild, Capstone Publishing, Lee and Low Books, The Omnibus Publishing. Bronze Sponsors:Double Dutch Dolls, Bliss Group Books, Snuggle with Picture Books Publishing, Rainbow Books, Author FeliciaCapers, Chronicle Books Muslim Writers Publishing ,East West Discovery Press.

I received my copy of this book from the publisher Wisdom Tales Press. This review reflects my own honest opinion about the book.

Squanto’s Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving

Squantos Journey102606130Squantos Journey:  The Story of the First Thanksgiving

Joseph Bruchac, author

Greg Shed, illustrator

Silver Whistle – Harcourt, Inc., Historical Fiction, 2000

Suitable for: Ages 6-12

Themes: Squanto, Wampanoag Indians, Pilgrims, Thanksgiving, Survival

Opening/Synopsis“My story is both strange and true.  I was born in the year the English call 1590.  My family were leaders of the Patuxet people and I, too, was raised to lead. But in 1614 I was taken to Spain against my will.  Now it is 1621 and I am again in my homeland.  My name is Squanto, I would like to tell you my tale.”   Squanto plays a key role in bringing peace between the Indians and the English settlers who arrived in Plymouth.  The settlers were not prepared for the harsh challenges they faced.  Squanto taught them ways of the living on the land so that they could plant crops, hunt, fish and prepare for the winter.  When the autumn arrived they celebrated the good harvest with a feast for all.   Squanto’s tribe worked with the settlers to help them survive.

Why I like this book:  The story of the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving is known to children.  Author Joseph Bruchac tells the story from the Native American perspective in first person.  Squanto ( Tisquantum) was captured by the British, taken to Spain as a slave where he escaped and found his way back home to New England.  He was the first Native American Indian to live in the European and Indian world.  The author’s research is thorough and he spent many years among the Native American tribe.  He wrote this fascinating  and inspiring account of how Squanto taught the Pilgrims to survive the harsh New World.  Greg Shed’s research took him to Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, MA, where he studied the landscape, and buildings and settlement so he could capture the authenticity in his bold and beautiful illustrations.

Resources: There is an informative Author’s Note at the end.  The Plimoth Plantation has a wonderful section “Just for Kids,” where children can learn to talk like a Pilgrim, take a virtual  Thanksgiving field trip sponsored by Scholastic, and work with materials for reports and coloring pages.  Click here to view a short video on the Plimoth Plantation produced by the History Channel.