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RED BIRD DANCED by Dawn Quigley Kirkus Star


by Dawn Quigley

Pub Date: June 4th, 2024
ISBN: 9780063223622
Publisher: Heartdrum

In this novel in verse, two urban Indigenous children persevere despite sorrow.

Eleven-year-old Ariel’s Auntie Bineshiinh has gone missing, leaving the Turtle Mountain Ojibwe girl unable to pursue the ballet lessons she loves; the family needs the money to search for her aunt. Twelve-year-old Tomah, who lives in the same Intertribal Housing Complex as Ariel, uses humor to mask insecurities about his struggles at school. Years ago, Auntie Bineshiinh babysat Ariel and Tomah; she taught them to “see / past / what / others might / see,” and both children now confront their problems with sensitivity and perceptiveness. Ariel decides to do a school project on the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, and as Tomah’s grandmother teaches Ariel to perform the Jingle dance, she learns that the dance can help heal both her and her community. Meanwhile, Tomah finds inspiration in observing the nearby birds and realizes that while he may have a reading disability, he’s a gifted storyteller nevertheless. Quigley (Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe) employs ample white space and inspired formatting as her potent, eloquent words dance across the page. She makes deft use of imagery: A bird motif underscores Auntie Bineshiinh’s absence (indeed, her name is Ojibwe for bird), while Tomah uses a red dress, a symbol for missing Native women and girls, to raise awareness. The protagonists’ dual perspectives convey a mix of hurt and optimism; above all, the power of community comes through.

A captivating, exquisitely penned story of hope and survival.

(Ojibwe glossary, author’s note, information on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and jingle dancing, note from author and Heartdrum curator Cynthia Leitich Smith) (Verse novel. 10-16)