Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Red Bird Sings: The Story of Zitkala-Sa, Native American Author, Musician, and A

Red Bird Sings: The Story of Zitkala-Sa, Native American Author, Musician, and A

Gina Capaldi, Q.L. Pearce
Illustrator:  Gina Capaldi 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 7 to 9
Lerner, 2011   ISBN: 978-0761352570

In February of 1884, missionaries came to Zitkala-Sa’s village in South Dakota. Zitkala-Sa’s brother had gone East for three years to be educated, and now she wanted to go to “the Land of Red Apples.” Zitkala-Sa begged her mother to let her go, and her mother agreed because she knew that Zitkala Sa was going to need an education.

Zitakala-Sa soon discovered that being a student at White’s Manual Labor Institute in Wabash, Indiana was not what she had hoped it would be. She was given a new name, Gertrude Simmons, and her hair was cut off. In the mornings, Zitkala-Sa did “vocational training,” and in the afternoons she learned how to read and write. On Saturday’s, Zitkala-Sa had music lessons, and she soon demonstrated that she had a natural affinity for music.

After three years, Zitkala-Sa went home to see her mother. She soon realized that she no longer fit in her mother’s world, but then she did not fit in the white man’s world either. Zitakala-Sa came to understood that she loved books, music, and writing, and that if she wanted to continue to explore these things she would have to go “further into the Anglo world.” Zitkala-Sa went back to White’s, and became the music teacher there. Later she went to Earlham College in Indiana. Zitkala quickly proved that she had considerable oratorical skills, and she spoke very movingly about women’s rights and suffrage to audiences. Then she began to speak out about how her people had been mistreated by the white man, and Zitkala-Sa began a new stage in her life, becoming a spokesperson and advocate for the Native American people.

To tell the story of Zitkala-Sa, the authors of this book adapted Zitkala-Sa’s own writings for a picture book format. Zitkala-Sa’s words are combined with information from primary and secondary sources, to give readers a fascinating and inspirational look at the life of one of America’s great women. Readers will see how Zitkala-Sa changed over time, and how she found a purpose that was important to her.

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