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JINGLE DANCER by Cynthia Leitich Smith

JINGLE DANCER

By Cynthia Leitich Smith (Author) , Cornelius Van Wright (Illustrator) , Ying-Hwa Hu (Illustrator)

Age Range: 5 - 9

Pub Date: April 30th, 2000
ISBN: 0-688-16241-X
Publisher: Harcourt

A contemporary Native American girl follows in her grandmother’s footsteps (literally and figuratively), dancing the traditional jingle dance at the powwow. Jenna, a member of the Creek Nation in Oklahoma, dreams of dancing the jingle dance with the women of her tribe and is delighted when her grandmother tells her that she can dance with the other girls at the next powwow. But there is one problem—there won’t be enough time to order the materials to make the four rows of jingles that are attached to the dress. If Jenna wants to hear the tink, tink, tink sound that the tin jingles make, she’ll have to figure out a way to get the jingles on her own. Fortunately, Jenna is resourceful and knows just what to do. She visits great-aunt Sis, her friend Mrs. Scott, and cousin Elizabeth and borrows a row of jingles from each of them. (Jenna can only borrow one row of jingles apiece—otherwise each dress will lose its “voice.”) While the problem of finding the jingles on her own doesn’t seem challenging enough for the approbation Jenna receives at the end of the story for her resourcefulness, children will enjoy watching her figure out the solution to her problem. The watercolor illustrations clearly and realistically depict what is happening in the story. The layout of the book is straightforward—mostly double-page spreads that extend all the way to the edges of the paper. Jenna lives in what looks like a nice suburban house, the others seem solidly middle-class, and cousin Elizabeth is a lawyer. The author is deliberately showing us, it would seem, that all Native Americans are not poor or live on rundown reservations. A useful portrayal of an important cultural event in a Creek girl’s year. (author’s note, glossary) (Picture book. 5-9)