Native American Picture Books of Change: The Art of Historic Children’s Editions

Feb 15th, 2006 | By | Category: 17-3: Heroes of Today, Media Reviews

by Rebecca C. Benes, Foreword by Gloria Emerson
Museum of New Mexico Press (2004)
176 pages, 106 color plates, 44 black-and-white illustrations
ISBN 0-8901-3471-5
Clothbound $45

Review by Gwynne Spencer

Once upon a time, in the 1920s, the Bureau of Indian Affairs brought together writers, ethnologists, linguists, and young Indian artists to create a unique body of illustrated literature for emerging readers.

This book documents 40 years of these Diné, Pueblo, Hopi, and Zuni storybooks, most of which are now out of print. It showcases talents such as Ann Nolan Clark, Pablita Velarde, Allan Houser, Velino Herrera, and Fred Kabotie.

This is an astonishing and delightful celebration of stories and art as presented to children in classrooms throughout the Indian education programs of that time period. (Warning: The lavish illustrations will drive most readers to search for these out-of-print books.) The book is recommended, especially for contemporary children’s literature courses.

Gwynne Spencer is a freelance book reviewer and publisher in Mancos, CO.

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