The newest in the I See the Sun… series is a paean to American diversity.
During a trip to Mount Rushmore, Stella, a biracial girl with a white mother and Indian-American father, explores how her family differs from others, including: a transracial-transnational adoptive Alabama family with two white moms; a black family from Massachusetts; and a multigenerational, white Iowan family. Stilted, lengthy, first-person narration details her observations and fails in earnest efforts to affirm pluralism. The book presents family trees with inadequately contextualized lineages and later delivers a ham-fisted treatment of Native peoples and history. On the latter note, Stella’s father tells her that “the Lakotas really own the Black Hills where Mt. Rushmore is. The Black Hills are sacred to the tribe, but the United States government won’t allow them to perform their ceremonies there anymore.” This reads as a simplistic aside, since their subsequent trip to the Lakota reservation where she meets a girl named Martha never expands on this cursory commentary about American settler colonialism. The closing, in which Stella’s mother sings “This Land Is Your Land” as a celebration of American diversity, provides a final, resounding note of erasure and insensitivity to Native peoples. The story is followed by backmatter that embraces the fraught term “melting pot” and never acknowledges the tension between American ideals and its history of colonialism and slavery, although it does comment with regret on the rise of nationalism following the 2016 presidential election.
Well-intended—but woefully inadequate to its task. (Picture book. 4-7)