As part of Native American Heritage Month, I have been exploring our Cherokee heritage with the boys. Earlier we made a fun craft based on a Cherokee rattle, plus we’ve been reading children’s books about the Cherokee. Here are some that we have found:
Picture Books about the Cherokee
The First Strawberries is a beautiful Cherokee legend, here retold by Joseph Bruchac. It tells of the first man and woman made by the Creator, and of the quarrel that threatened to ruin their happy life together. The sun, however, worked to ease the tensions by making strawberries grow at the woman’s feet, reminding her of the sweetness of her life with her husband. The lesson of compassion and the importance of kindness over anger will resonate with readers old and young alike.
In Grandmother Spider Brings the Sun renowned storyteller Geri Keams brings to life the Cherokee tale of how the sun came to light all of the world. Though several other animals living in the dark side of the world attempted to bring back a piece of the sun, it was Grandmother Spider who finally succeeded, bringing it back in a clay pot.
Historical Fiction about the Cherokee
Soft Rain: A Story of the Cherokee Trail of Tears begins when nine year old Soft Rain learns that her family must leave their home and travel to a new land, known to her as “the land of darkness.” Soft Rain’s story tackles a painful period in US history and the devastating effect of the Trail of Tears on the lives of those that were uprooted.
Cherokee Sister by Debbie Dadey is another piece of historical fiction, which focuses on the daughter of a poor white farming family in Georgia who is mistakenly moved along with the Cherokee in the Trail of Tears. To be honest, I find the premise of the book far-fetched – she just happens to have tan skin because she loves to run around in the sun despite her mother’s warning and just happens to be visiting her Cherokee friend on that fateful day and just happens to have tried on her friend’s beautiful buckskin dress just before they are all rounded up by the soldiers! Having said that, this book gets high marks for showing the capacity for friendship between whites and Cherokees, even in the midst of the greatest tragedy inflicted by the one upon the other.
The classic book The Education of Little Tree is the story of a Cherokee young boy raised by his grandparents in the mountains of Tennessee during the Great Depression. I love that this is historical fiction not about the Trail of Tears. Don’t get me wrong – it is critical that children understand the horrific Trail of Tears. But it is also critical for them to know that the Cherokee existed and do exist beyond that tragedy. In this acclaimed work, Little Tree learns the Cherokee Way from his grandfather, who manages to avoid being caught up in the white society that surrounds them. Yet when Little Tree is taken away to attend white schools he must endure the humiliations heaped upon Cherokee students to force them to assimilate.
Non-Fiction Books about the Cherokee
The Cherokee (American Indian Art and Culture) was the book I drew upon to make our rattle craft. I love that this book includes a strong focus on contemporary culture, missing from many works. In addition, it has several crafts and hands-on activities for children, unlike other similar overview books.
If You Lived With The Cherokees is an engaging book that encourages young readers to imagine themselves living in a Cherokee village long ago. It asks basic questions that help children really picture what that life would be like – What would you eat? How would you get your name? – and even tackles bigger questions like, Did the Cherokee scalp their enemies? Great book to capture the imagination of children.
The Cherokee (First Reports: Native Americans)is a good introduction to Cherokee culture and history. It is full of information, but on a level appropriate for young children. The large, full-color photos and illustrations throughout the book will help engage young readers.