Judy Blume's Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing arrived in time for Christmas. The Amazon order, which included Tim Tingle's Crossing Bok Chitto A Choctaw Story of Friendship & Freedom, did not. In fact my granddaughter and I were already reading Judy Blume when the Amazon order arrived, two days after Christmas. We took a break that night to read Tingle's book, which begins with:
There is a river called Bok Chitto that cuts through Mississippi. In the days before the War Between the States, in the days before the Trail of Tears, Bok Chitto was a boundary. On the one side of the river lived the Choctaws, a nation of Indian people. On the other side lived the plantation owners and their slaves. If a slave escaped and made his way across Bok Chitto, the slave was free. The slave owner could not follow. That was the law.Crossing Bok Chitto is the story of a fearless Choctaw girl, Martha, who ventures beyond the Choctaw boundary despite her mother's warnings, and a slave boy, Little Mo, who learns the power of faith as he takes on losing odds to save his family. I had a lump in my throat the size of Mississippi as I read the last lines:
The descendants of those people still talk about that night. The Choctaws talk about the bravery of that little girl, Martha Tom. The black people talk about the faith of that little boy, Moses, but maybe the white people tell it best. They talk about the night their forefathers witnessed seven black spirits, walking on the water--to their freedom.
Wow. That's about all I can say. Wow. So many good books, so little time. This one, which was a great choice for Christmas, incidentally, goes onto the list for the class I teach this semester at Ilisagvik College: ANS 293 Alaska Native/Native American Children's Literature. It's beautiful book, too:
Ready for that New Year's resolution? How about a resolution for schools across the nation? November is Native American Month. You probably didn't know that. It's also Thanksgiving. You probably did know that. Yes, I know, it's a long way off, but let's think ahead and make November 2012 the time to make a permanent paradigm shift in children's literature. Let's teach the true story of Thanksgiving and replace all the books with Indian stereotypes with books like this one, books that tell the real stories of this country's First Peoples. The real stories are way better, anyhow.