Smith, Cynthia Leitich. Jingle Dancer. Illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu. New York: Morrow Junior Books, 2000. ISBN: 0-688-16242-8.
Jingle Dancer is a children’s
book about a Muscogee, or Creek, girl who gets herself and her dress ready to dance for the first time at the next powwow,
a Native American social and spiritual event that includes dancing, drumming, singing, and eating. Jenna needs four rows of jingles for her dress and during the course of one day she sets out to borrow
them from four different relatives.
is written in a repetitive rhythmic style that is attractive to children. This
and the sound words used throughout the story make the story come to life just like a song.
The story is set in contemporary times.
It is about the transferring of tradition from one generation to the next. Jenna
and her Grandmother live in a modern home surrounded by relatives who live nearby. They
love and practice their traditional dance, the Jingle Dance. This dance has been
passed from generation to generation. In fact, the author explains in the note
at the end of the book that “Obigway and other Native women of Canada
are often credited as the first jingle dancers”.
"This story is very much about reciprocity,
sharing, and respecting elder women--a tribute to my grandmas and great aunties. It is often noted for featuring a professional
Native woman character, Cousin Elizabeth, who is a lawyer, and for the fact that the illustrations include biracial Native
people, such as Black Indians.”--Cynthia Leitich Smith
are done in watercolor and using pastel colors that give the story a real life effect. Each
character has unique facial expressions that represent the characteristics of the Creek people accurately. The clothing used by the characters tells us the importance that the jingle dress and other outfits used
during a powwow ceremony have to Native Americans. People dress in contemporary
clothing at home and at work; however, they wear special outfits for their dances and ceremonies at the powwow.
Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu, are a married couple that belongs to different cultures.
They believe in respect for all communities; therefore, they put a lot into research in order to provide accurate information
and avoid stereotypes about the culture they are illustrating. (Illustrator Interview by Cynthia Leitich Smith Resources)
of all cultures, especially dancers, will enjoy learning about the jingle dance. Teachers
can create a lesson in which they compare and contrast dances from different cultures.
They can concentrate on the steps, the dresses, and even the importance of the dance to the community.
Smith, Cynthia Leitich. Cynthia Leitich Website. http://www.cynthialeitichsmith.com/auth-illHuVanWright.htm., July 13, 2005.