A modern tale of a young Muscogee girl
What is Jingle Dancer about?
This read aloud is designed and intended for a 5th grade classroom.
What is the literary merit of this book?
From Publisher's Weekly: "Smith, a mixed-blood member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, convincingly juxtaposes cherished Native American tradition and contemporary lifestyle in this smooth debut. Watching a videotape of Grandma Wolfe performing a jingle dance, Jenna is determined to dance at an upcoming powwow. But she lacks the cone-shaped, tin jingles that are sewn on to dancers' dresses as part of the regalia. The girl walks down a suburban sidewalk lined with modern houses as she sets out to visit her great-aunt, a neighbor, a cousin and Grandma Wolfe, all of whom lend her jingles for her dress. Smith's language consciously evokes legend. For example, "As Sun caught a glimpse of the Moon" indicates the time of day; and Jenna is careful to borrow only a limited number of jingles, "not wanting to take so many that [another's] dress would lose its voice." Van Wright and Hu's (Jewels) lifelike renderings capture the genuine affection between Jenna and these caring older women. Their easy integration of Native and standard furnishings and clothing gracefully complement Smith's heartening portrait of a harmonious meshing of old and new."
Cynthia Leitich Smith is a New York Time's best-selling and award winning children's/Young Adult author whose childrens' books focus on the contemporary lives of Native American children.
She is a member of the Muscogee-Creek Nation. She writes books loosely based on her experiences from childhood. Smith is a graduate of the University of Kansas.
Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu are a husband and wife duo that have worked on a number of prolific children's books, working primarily in the watercolor medium.
The pair take pride in illustrating multicultural books for children so that more children may hear their voices within the stories told. Other books illustrated by this pair include: "Alicia’s Happy Day/ El Dia Mas Feliz De Alicia", "American Slave, American Hero: York of the Lewis And Clark", "I Told You I Can Play!", and "The Legend of Freedom Hill".
"Jingle Dancer" is relevant to a classroom because...
• This book portrays the Muscogee Nation with complete accuracy, as the author is a member of the tribe. Because Smith has used some of her own experiences as a basis for her writing, the characters appear more genuine and "real".
• The entire book is about a cultural celebration unique to Native American tradition - jingle dancing.
• "Jingle Dancer" honors the traditions of the Muscogee Nation.
• Jenna interacts with multiple members of her family/tribe in a respectful manner,
• The only characters in the book are also a part of the Muscogee nation.
• This book allows for reflecting on cultural traditions found within a student's own background.
• Smith invokes the poetry found in many of the stories told in Native American folk tales.
• Meets generally accepted criteria for the genre
• The book is current and students should easily relate to the young girl in the story because of her interests, clothing styles, and home life.
Procedures for the read aloud
Burrowing - advance into or through something solid by digging or making a hole.
- After reading the book, go back to the words "powwow" and "burrowing".
- Ask students, "what do you think these words mean? How do you know?"
- Tell the students the definitions of the words.
- Say, "we are going to act out these words so that we can better understand them. Has anyone seen a powwow?" If a student has, invite them to come up and demonstrate how a person would act at a powwow. If not, proceed to next step.
- Say, "I will demonstrate how a jingle dancer may behave at a powwow." Demonstrate the dance moves and the chanting.
- Ask students to stand in a circle and dance around the "fire" like they might at a real powwow. After a few seconds, thank them and ask them to return to their seats.
- Ask for a volunteer to demonstrate the word "burrow". Ask students to mimic what that student has done.
- Ask, "why might the author have used the word 'burrowing' when talking about the messy closet? Is that a stronger word than digging?"
- Invite students to discuss what else may happen at a powwow, using evidence from the text (ex. people watch the dancers, people sell Indian tacos)