Should we shy away from good books?

I’ve just uploaded a new VIPERS resource (complete with pre-teaching PPT). You can find that and the others I’ve uploaded here. For further explanation of VIPERS you can read me earlier blog here or cut out the middle man and go straight to the source here.

I don’t normally feel the need to justify my choice of text for VIPERS, but with this one I do and it’s because it is somewhat controversial.

The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks, is problematic for many people firstly because the term ‘Indian’ is used rather than ‘Native American’. That’s easily solved with a class discussion about where the term originated and why we no longer use it – this is referred to in the pre-teach PPT.

There are other objections based on the fact that the Native American in the story is actually a toy that comes to life. The author deals with this well, in my opinion, with the main character – Omri – realising that this Native American is actually a real person not just a toy. He feels the enormity of the responsibility for looking after him in a world full of danger to such a tiny person.

The book brings up the topic of scalping in a very sensitive way, with Omri discovering that Native Americans weren’t the only ones who did this and were in fact encouraged to do it by the French and British during the French and Indian War (1754 – 1763).

Omri learns other things about Native American, Little Bull and about his Iroquois culture. I think if read alongside books such as this:

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and as part of a topic exploring the rich culture of different Native American tribes, it can inform and expand children’s knowledge.

Rather than simply writing this book off as it is ‘no longer culturally acceptable’ I would urge people to read the book with an open mind. It’s a good book that children enjoy.

This blog goes into much more detail about why this book (and the series) rather than glorifying the expansion west and the ultimate destruction of the indigenous population, actually offers an insight into this dark history.

I will use these VIPERS as part of a unit of work for English alongside the humanities topic (geography focus) I recently wrote about North America. You can find that and the accompanying resources here.

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