Saturday, April 30, 2016

Red Bird Sings: The Story of Zitkala-Sa, Native American Author, Musician, and Activist by Gina Capaldi and Q.L. Pearce (Picture Book Biographies from A to Z - Letter Z)

Red Bird Sings: The Story of Zitkala-Sa, Native American Author, Musician, and Activist
by Gina Capaldi and Q.L. Pearce 
2011. Carolrhoda Books.



Zitkala-Sa (1876-1938) was a Sioux writer, activist, and violinist.


The text of this book features slightly edited versions of monthly first-person articles Zitkala-Sa wrote for the Atlantic Monthly during the early 1900s. 

About the Illustrations

Some of the pictures are better than others. Faces convey much of the story, and the illustrations are kid-friendly, as they fill the page with color. The book is not as much about music as the cover image suggests, and worse, on pages where Zitkala-Sa is shown playing a musical instrument, Capaldi depicts her holding it incorrectly, or leaves entire pieces of the instrument out of the picture. (As the wife of a former music teacher, I have learned that most picture books get these details wrong. Illustrators need to do better.)

Author's Note

The "Author's Note" is placed at the start of this book, where it provides all the necessary context to help readers understand Zitkala-Sa's life story. It includes references to well-known events such as Little Big Horn, as well as to situations readers may not know about, like American Tribal Indians' rights being ignored and children being taken from families to assimilate into the Anglo world. The "Afterword" at the end of the book includes photos of Zitkala-Sa, and talks about her work in the 1920s, and the circumstances of her death. "A Note on the Uses of Sources and Materials" justifies what was already explained in the Author's Note about changing some of Zitkala-Sa's words to suit the format of the book and explains how additional biographical details not explicitly states in the Atlantic Monthly articles was added to provide context. Finally, "Selected Bibliography," "Partial List of Zitkala-Sa's Writings" and "Further Reading" sections provide lots of resources for deeper research.

Additional Comments 

This book is very text-heavy for a picture book. I would say it's definitely geared toward middle grade audiences, and will probably get the most use by classroom teachers who are focusing on American history. 

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