Hiawatha and the Peacemaker by Robbie Robertson. Illustrated by David Shannon. Abrams, 2015
Hiawatha is consumed by thoughts of revenge after his village is burned and his wife and children killed by Onondaga Chief Tadoaho. Then a leader called the Peacemaker convinces him that unity, not fighting, is the path to take, and asks Hiawatha to help him carry his message of peace among the nations of the Iro-quois. They travel in turn to the Cayuga, Seneca, Oneida, Mohawk, and finally, the Onondaga. On the journey, the Peacemaker meets skepticism and anger with quiet courage and soft-spoken wisdom and his cause is championed by the Clan Mothers. Eventually, Hiawatha’s thoughts of revenge are replaced by forgiveness. He meets his former enemy with understanding, helping Tadoaho defeat the evil that possesses him. Robbie Robertson’s emotionally rich retelling of the origin story of the Iroquois Confederacy he first heard as a child visiting his Mohawk and Cayuga relatives is vivid and compelling. Punctuating the longer narrative is a slightly varied, repeated refrain that gives the story the rhythm of a cumulative tale, this one drawn from history. A historical note explains that Hia-watha and the Peacemaker, a spiritual leader named Deganawida, are thought to have lived in the 14th century. The story is set against strong, beautifully rendered oil illustrations by David Shannon that respect rather than romanticize the characters. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center
- What did you know about Hiawatha before reading the book? What do you know about Hiawatha after reading the book?
- How do the illustrations help tell the story? How does the music enhance this story?
- What message did you get from this story? Is peace possible without forgiveness?
Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras by Duncan Tonatiuh. Abrams, 2015
José Guadelupa Posada’s etchings of calaveras (skeletons) are a cultural treasure in Mexico. Posada, who was known as Don Lupe, began creating them to illustrate short, funny poems called literary calaveras in the late 19th century. Duncan To-natiuh combines biographical elements about Posada with a history of the calaveras he created, including his artistic mentors and the printing process he used. Tonatiuh discusses the cultural importance of Don Lupe’s calaveras and their connection to El Día de los Muertos. He moves seamlessly through these elements in the narrative while going back and forth visually between his own distinctive art style and reproductions of a number of calaveras created by Don Lupe and an earlier artist named Manuel Manila. Don Lupe’s calavera images included social and political figures, and Tonatiuh ponders their meaning, and also imagines what subjects Don Lupe might choose if he were alive today. A volume that is playful, admiring, and informative is also visually arresting across the two styles of art. A substantial author’s note provides more information on the Day of the Dead, Posada, and calaveras. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center
- How did Posada express his political opinions through art? Why did you decide to do this? Was it effective?
- What makes Posada’s original work timeless?
- Compare the book’s illustrations with Posada’s. How does this affect your perspective on all the ways skulls are used now?
- Day of the Dead and Halloween are celebrated within a day of each other in different cultures. In what ways are they similar? Different? Why are the differences between the holiday’s important?