Winther (Duane Pasco: Life as Art, 2013) teaches young readers about the Hopi people’s traditions, including honoring spirits known as kachinas.
The Hopi people of northeastern Arizona regard kachinas as the bearers of fruitful harvests, and from December through July, they hold dances and ceremonies celebrating the spirits’ arrival. Hester, 9, and Honu, 7, learn their family’s values through stories about the kachinas. Each chapter explains a different period during the eight months of kachina, as seen through the children’s eyes. The Hopis regard the kachinas with reverence and respect, and they take great measures to satisfy them. Additionally, they believe that all children must be on their best behavior. Hester and Honu learn new values as they receive more responsibilities as maturing members of the family. Winther explains that she aims to provide readers with a glimpse of Hopi life and culture with this book, though traditions vary and her characters are fictional. Although many of the children’s experiences are culturally specific, the coming-of-age lessons are universal, and any children of a similar age may appreciate them. Older readers may also find themselves engaged by the unique traditions and stories. Winther offers vibrant, colored pen–and-ink drawings of the different kachina spirits, and the book is sensitively designed, right down to the soft, matte cover. Aside from a mention of tourists watching the dances, the Hopi group seems to live largely separate from others around them, and readers might find it interesting to know more about how they interact with other cultures. Overall, though, Winther provides a rich, culturally sensitive glimpse of Hopi life.
A beautiful, short book for children ages 7-12 as well as older audiences interested in learning about Native American culture.