SONGS FROM THE LOOM: A NAVAJO GIRL LEARNS TO WEAVE; Written and photographed by Monty Roessel.1995; Lerner Publications Company, 241 First Avenue North, Minneapolis, MN 55401, 800/328-4929. Illustrated, map, bibliography, glossary. 48 pp., $6.95 paper, $19.95/$14.95 hardcover.0-8225-2567-3 (hardbound), 0-8225-9712-8 (paperback); Middle School
Monty Roessel, Navajo photographer-writer, beautifully conveys the story of his daughter, Jaclyn, age 10, learning to weave from her grandma, Monty's mother. He remembers from his own boyhood, coming home one day from school to hear his mother singing and weaving. "This is who we are. The loom connects me with the sacred mountains, and the song connects me with my mother." Then she spent the next hour telling young Monty the traditional story of "how we, the Dine -- the people -- learned to weave." Monty gives us this story: Changing Woman learns weaving from Spider Woman, then teaches other women.
He shows Jaclyn's excitement when she begins to learn weaving, back when she was a second-grader. In the dawn, her grandma takes her out to pray to the Sun and the Holy POeople, facing the Lukachukai mountains and the dawn behind them, "so they will know you are learning the old ways.".
Jaclyn learns songs and stories of the loom, as well as how to spin wool, shared from family sheep, into yarn, and learns also how to make natural dyes from plants which which Nali (father's mother) Ruth and Jaclyn gather and boil in big pots, where the yarn is added after the dyes are ready. Weaving at big looms is often done outside in summers, where fry bread cooked on the dye-fire, tastes extra good.
When Jaclyn returns to her own home and school in Kayenta, she brings the small loom and other things her grandma gave her. She spends some time weaving every day after school. But when grandma Ruth arrives for a visit, she finds Jaclyn's room and weaving tools kind of a mess, and tells her a story about a young woman who "betrayed her weaving tools" when learning to weave from Changing Woman. "Always take care of your tools, and they will take care of you," is the moral.
Stories, plants, techniques, care, inspiration from the land for patterns -- now Jaclyn is ready to learn the songs of weaving. Roessel gives us one (in English); I wish we could hear it sung
History, beautiful scenery, beautiful people and their living culture are threads Roessel has woven throughout this book, telling of important experiences in a period of his daughter's life. He is also the authr-photographer of another Lerner book from the "We Are Still Here" series: Kinaldaa: A Navajo Girl Grows Up (1993), the coming-of-age womanhood ceremony, and what it means. That one was designated a Notable Children's Trade Book in Social Studies by the NCSS-CBC Joint Committee. The present book has been designated an Outstanding Social Studies Elementary Book by the Society of School Librarians International. The two books go well together, to provide an interesting, accurate, and berautiful story of Navajho contemporary life that will be interesting to boys and highly involving for girls.
Very highly recommended.
Reviewed by Paula GieseFile: mi242
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Native American BOOKS, text and graphics copyright Paula Giese, 1996
Last Updated: 12/27/96