Thursday, October 28, 2021

Living Ghosts and Mischievous Monsters: Chilling American Indian Stories

Jones, Dan SaSuWeh and Alvitre, Weshoyot. 
Living Ghosts and Mischievous Monsters: Chilling American Indian Stories. 
September 7th 2021 by Scholastic Nonfiction
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

This collection of short stories from a variety of Native American backgrounds is divided into five major categories; Ghosts, Spirits, Witches, Monsters, and the Supernatural, although there is understandably a lot of cross over between types of stories. All are labeled with the area of the US or the tribes from which the stories are gleaned, and SaSuWeh (from the Ponca Nation) tells many himself. Most are two to three pages long, and accompanied with large illustrations, so they do have a decided Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark vibe.
There is a lot of information about Native American culture shared along with the stories. For example, in The Deer Hunter, we see background on hunting, as well as how tribal medicine people dealt with the sickness of one of the characters in the story. In The Garage Sale, we learn about how personal possessions are important and intrinsically tied to the fates of their owners. The Boy Who Watched Over the Children discusses the tragedy of Indian Boarding Schools in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Jones also has a good introduction that explains how some tales were not meant to be widely shared, and how some characters were not meant to be named. Information about how the tales were collected is interesting as well.
Weshoyot's black and white line illustrations are chilling, but also give a good sense of place. She does a particularly good job at portraying some of the monsters and animals, and these pictures add to the scary quality of the tales.
Like San Souci's Dare to Be Scared or Haunted Houses, this gives a variety of stories from difference backgrounds. Since they are all fairly short, this would make a good read aloud, especially if you wanted to highlight Native stories for National Native American Heritage Month in Novemember. It also makes a great addition to Folklore collections, where it is hard to find Native stories told by Native writers.
I'm not sure that my students would consider any of these stories to be all that scary.

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