Middle School (9 - 14) Books

CHILDREN OF CLAY: A FAMILY OF PUEBLO POTTERS by Rina Swentzell, with photographs by Bill Steen. Lerner Publications Company, 241 First Avenue North, Minneapolis, MN 55401. 800/328-4929.Illustrated, map, bibliography, glossary. 40 pp., $15.95 cloth. 0-8225-2654-9, (Middle School)

Gia Rose lives in an adobe house at Santa Clara Pueblo in New Mexico. One hot day, she gathers her family and drives to the mountains to collect clay. At the clay pit, she prays to Clay-Old- Woman and tells her that the clay she takes will be used carefully and respectfully. After the buckets and tubs are filled, Gia tells the children about Water-Jar-Boy. Born as a clay water jar, he turns into a real boy when he goes hunting with his grandfather.

At home, water is poured into the containers, and the clay soaks it up for several days. Next, the clay is screened to take out rocks, and then it is mixed with sand. Now the clay is ready for molding. The family members gather to make several designs, which dry for a week, and then are polished and painted. Many of the pieces are painted with lizard or bear symbols. Weeks later, the pieces are fired. The family asks Clay-Old-Woman to protect the pieces so that they do not get damaged. The finished pieces are used by the family, given to relatives, or sold at the pueblo or to art galleries.

The book also contains a brief description and history of the nineteen pueblos of New Mexico, and introduces several Tewa words, such as owingeh (village) and posongeh (Rio Grande). Illustrated with 45 color photographs, the book is a delightful celebration of an ancient art. Highly recommended. Reviewed by: Steve Brock

A Second Look at the two above books: Lerner, a Minneapolis publisher, now has a whole series of these photo-illustrated books, both in low-cost paperback and at about $15 with school discounts in sturdy hardcover.

ner has worked with Indian people of this area for more than 30 years to produce Native-centered literature for all ages, even when they sold very few of them.

They worked with women of the American Indian Movement in the early 1970's, when we mapped out with them what we'd like to see for our Survival Schools, all the more extraordinary when we explained these schools operated on no money and couldn't even buy paper for the kids. One new book in the series is written by Laura Waterman Wittstock, who has a long local and national history of Indian activism, all are written in close cooperation with tribal people and elders. I will be reviewing the rest of Lerner's Native books for young people here soon. There are 7 so far for Middle School, more are planned, and several for young adults. The middle school series (but none of the others) are available from AISES, but they carry only the paperbacks, which will not stand up long to school use by lively youngsters.

Meanwhile, you can see a different type of experimental book review -- it's a web trip (or maybe guided research considered in more stodgy terms). The takeoff is Children of Clay,, as well as a book for younger children and a book of poetry for any age, all by women of the same talented Santa Clara Pueblo family. Reviewed by Paula Giese

File: ch201

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Native American BOOKS, text and graphics copyright Paula Giese, 1996

Last Updated: Saturday, April 13, 1996 - 2:22:48 AM