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The Importance of Perspective

Keepunumuk written by Danielle Greendeer, Anthony Perry, and Alexis Bunten, illustrated by Gary Meeches Sr., published by Charlesbridge.


If you are about my age and grew up in the USA, you may remember your elementary teacher dressing up half the class as Pilgrims and half the class as Indians that short week of school each November. Every time I think of it, more and more questions and concerns arise. Today, I cringe at the thought that we were only ever taught one perspective of the day that is honored as Thanksgiving. We've always known that the Pilgrims weren't the only ones at the table. But, we only ever heard their side of the story. There is more than one side to every story.


I chose to review Keepunumuk this week to celebrate its story and to encourage readers to explore all the books in recent years finally published from indigenous voices. (It's not because the Indigenous community was not there, but that their voices were not in the books most schoolchildren are given).


From picture books to young adult, indigenous creators are telling their stories, ones we can all enjoy for their strong narratives and characters, ones readers from all communities would benefit to hear, and ones in which we recognize everyone's stories and histories. Even when people live through the same event, they do not necessarily experience it in the same way.


And this brings me to the delightful and eye-opening picture book, Keepunumuk, written by Danielle Greendeer, Anthony Perry, Alexis Bunten, and illustrated by Gary Meeches Sr.. This is a story of Weeâchumun (the spirit of Corn) and her sisters Beans and Squash. Other characters include Seagull, Fox, Deer, Duck, and Turkey. We read, through their perspective, how the First People's (the natives to the land for the past 12,000+ years) experienced and reacted to the arrival of the newcomers and the events leading up to that famous harvest feast in 1621, known to the Wampanoag People as Keepunumuk.


Keepunumuk is a story within a story, one of a grandmother with her grandchildren in the garden contemplating what to pick for lunch that leads to her telling them the story of the keepunumuk, when the First Peoples and newcomers came together that harvest feast day and how the celebration and camaraderie unfortunately wouldn't last.


Readers will appreciate the front matter that gives some history and important words in Wôpanâak to guide in the enjoyment and learning in this delicately and beautifully illustrated work for children and adults alike.


The back matter includes further explanation about the Wampanoag tribes, storytelling tradition, a map, other harvest feasts throughout the year, the tradition of giving thanks with Spirit Plates, a recipe, and a brief biography of the people who inspired the characters in this book.


Imagine It!


Imagine the different ways in which you, your family, and friends give thanks.


Some people show their gratitude for another person with a kind gesture: a smile, holding a hand, offering a card or drawing. Some people sing or dance. Some people say prayers before a meal. The Wampanoag People prepare Spirit Plates (the back matter explains how).


Write a description or draw a picture of something you are particularly thankful for this year.


Do you have a pet who is always there for you? Imagine a way to show your appreciation.

Do you have a teacher who encourages you? Imagine a way to show how much that means to you.

Do you appreciate the warmth of the sun? The first snow flakes? A day at the beach swimming in the sea? Imagine all the ways in which to show how much you appreciate the Earth.


Imagine, whether you want to show thanks to an animal, a person, or a place, ways to take care of what loves you, brings you joy, and provides for you.


Imagine all the friendship and beauty that such gestures can create in the world.






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