24 Jun / Blue Jay Girl by Sylvia Ross
Sylvia Ross, LA-born and “raised … apart from her family Chukchansi culture,” as stated in her bio, has focused her writerly life on her Native American culture. Her latest title captures an inspiring ‘girl power’ story of long ago … about a “medium-sized” Yaudanchi child who lived in a village called Pawhawwuh Tin, in what would later be called San Joaquin Valley, along a river later called Tule, surrounded by the high mountains later called the Sierra Nevada. “[In] those days long ago, everything had a different name.”
Named for a blue jay that flew over her home right after her birth, Blue Jay Girl was a bright, inquisitive, respectful child who she worked hard to help her family. “But she was not ordinary.” Instead, unlike the other little girls who were content to learn how to make baskets and shell acorn, Blue Jay Girl “was afraid of nothing … and went to find adventures.”
Her bold spirit soon gets her into trouble … for everywhere she finds her adventures, she also encounters mishaps. While she narrowly escapes injury, others who play or protect her are not so lucky – her brother still has a scar from a raccoon attack after pushing Blue Jay Girl to safety, her aunt almost loses her own life to save her from drowning, a friend breaks an arm after following Blue Jay Girl up a tree.
Blue Jay Girl hopes she might change her bold blue jay spirit into that of the careful quail. But with the help of her mother and an elderly healer couple revered for their wisdom, Blue Jay Girl learns how to reign in the power of her spirit to benefit not only herself, but those around her …
Ross, who worked as a painter for Walt Disney Productions, combines colorful, stylized drawings that complement Blue Jay Girl’s bold journey. At book’s end, Ross offers a “Tribal History (for parents, teachers, and good readers)” that provides a sobering history of the people of today’s Tule River Indian Reservation that begins with the horrors of genocide, round-ups, and relocation and ends with the hopeful promise of “progressive self-governance … [by] a thriving population” with a collective “mission of continually improving the future of its people.” May the spirit of Blue Jay Girl inspire them (and us) all …
Readers: Middle Grade