Simon Ortiz’s seminal children’s book , The People Shall Continue, was first published forty years ago. My tattered classroom copy can now be retired, as the publisher has just released a special anniversary issue. The People Shall Continue tells the history of Native and Indigenous people in North America, from their beginnings to the challenges they have faced ever since the first European settlers arrived.
Ortiz tells this story in the way of the best oral narratives, and it is a moving experience to read it aloud with its sober cadences, repetitive phrases, and powerful evocations of bitter scenes, first of hope then of betrayal. Sharol Graves’ illustrations to great justice to Ortiz’s writing, for they fit each segment of this story perfectly. I especially loved these pages, which tells the creation story of the people, and of the knowledge passed from one generation of the People to those who survive in the next:
In his author’s note, Ortiz writes movingly about the struggle of Indigenous People to maintain and honor their traditions: “Without any doubt, the endeavor to continue to live as Indigenous Americans is sincere and serious. It is a way of living that engenders love, care, responsibility, and obligation. It must be exercised and expressed as belief, commitment, and assertion of one’s humanity in relationship to others and all life beings in Creation, in order that the people shall always continue.”
We read this book just before the Thanksgiving break in my sixth grade classroom, which led to thoughtful discussions about the meaning of this “American holiday”. It’s a book that belongs in classrooms, for it tells a story that must not be forgotten
Family Poems for Every Day of the Week is a joyous whirl through the seven days we march though, endure, and enjoy. I loved the way Alarcon wove his Latino traditions and family stories into each poem day. The illustrations by Maya Christina Gonzalez were full of vibrant colors and feast for the eyes, as well.
Here’s what my reading week looks like: