Monday, December 3, 2012

Nonfiction Monday: Paiute Princess: The story of Sarah Winnemucca by Deborah Kogan Ray

I keep saying I'm not going to review any more picture book biographies, because they really don't circulate in my library, but then I come across another really awesome one...

I've read some other books about Sarah Winnemucca, or at least I assume I have since most of her story was familiar to me. However, there was quite a bit of new information in this biography.

The story begins with Sarah's grandfather, Chief Truckee, and moves through her early childhood, her movement back and forth between the world of the white people in California and her own people and her choice to use her language abilities to stand up for her people who were losing their lands, rights, and often their lives.

There's no happy ending to this story of course; although Sarah did manage to get her people returned to their Nevada homeland and also run a successful school for several years before a policy of forced assimilation and boarding schools was enacted.

Ray's illustrations have soft edges and glowing colors, showing the beauty of the land Sarah and her family loved and the suffering and trials of her people. There's extensive research included in the back matter, including explanations of the differences between the names and perceptions white people gave to Sarah's people and their own traditions - the position of "princess" didn't actually exist in her tribal structure for example. Photographs, information on Sarah's work with Senator Dawes, and the tragedy of the Indian schools are also included. A timeline and author's note are also included.

Verdict: Well-researched and a sensitive topic is handled well. There's nothing inappropriate for the age range, but the tragedies aren't glossed over. A very balanced portrait of a complex woman. Sadly, again, my library patrons really don't like picture book biographies. I can see this doing very well in a school library or a much larger library perhaps.

ISBN: 9780374398972; Published 2011 by Frances Foster Books/Farrar Straus Giroux; Borrowed from another library

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