July 22, 2007

How to write children's books about Indians

How to Turn a Traditional Indian Story into a Children’s Book (for fun and profit)1. Go to a special collections library and peruse the traditional Indian stories told to and written down by non-Indian anthropologists. Don’t worry about asking anyone’s permission to use or change the stories you discover—Indians may consider many of them sacred, but according to copyright law, they are public domain and yours for the taking.

3. Magnify the details you think are important—and get rid of everything else. Cut out all references to violence, sex, bodily functions, spiritual beliefs, or anything else you don’t particularly like or understand.

5. Improve on the dialogue. Let your imagination run wild. If the story reads, “I am going!”, change it to: “Farewell, my parents, and do not grieve. I have another home under the sea and I’m going there!”
(Excerpted from Debbie Reese's American Indians in Children's Literature, 7/20/07.)

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