Jingle Dancer. Written by Cynthia Leitich Smith and illustrated y Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu.
Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith is another great example of how picture books can explain and illustrate different cultures. Jingle Dancer follows the story of a young girl whose family follows the cultural practices of their ancestors, Muscogee Creek Native Americans. The main character desires to perform in a cultural practice where girls of all ages “bounce-step” wearing a dress with embroidered with rows of metal jingles. These dances are called “powwows”. By the end of the story the young Muscogee girl gathers enough “jingles” to create a dress for the ceremony.
This picture book represents the passing on of an ancient culture throughout generations into the modern era. In this aspect, picture books do what other novels and books can’t. Picture books depict different cultures through the use of words and pictures together. The illustrations in this books show the reader what a powwow and jingle dancers look like. The writing itself expresses aspects of the Muscogee culture as well. Throughout the story the passing of time is told in terms of rising moons and setting suns.
Pictures truly are worth a thousand words. Due to the use of both illustrations and words, picture books can speak volumes about cultural practices. This book is for any teacher who desires to share long-held cultural practices in a way that is understandable and engaging for young people.