Friday, December 4, 2015

Calico Bush by Rachel Field

Recently in my blog travels, I came across this blog:, which led me to this blog about American Indians in literature:

It made me really think about the book I was currently reading, Calico Bush by Rachel Field. Published in 1931 and a Newbery Honor book, Field's novel tells the story of orphaned thirteen-year-old Marguerite Ledoux who has been sold as a bound-out girl in return for food and shelter until she is eighteen-years-old to a family who is settling in Northern Maine in 1743. The lexile is 1060. Because this book is still in print, the messages it contains should be considered.

During this time period, France and Native Americans were at war with the early settlers. As I read, I thought about the viewpoints that were missing and how Rachel Field attempted to include those point of views in small ways.

Every time the Indians were called Injuns, which was most of the time, I cringed. However, I think Rachel Field did a good job of showing how xenophobic the early settlers were. She wrote this before 1931, and what she writes shows that we still have a way to go. In 1743, white Europeans were the interlopers, yet they felt themselves above those who were indigenous to America. When WWI came, Germans in America were treated terribly. During WWII, Japanese-Americans were locked up because white America was afraid. As Syrian refugees flee torture and murder and try to find safety, once again, we are afraid.

I enjoyed Rachel Field's book, but I am viewing it through a white lens. I think for its time, this book brings many issues as discussion points to the table. Marguerite is deprived of her name and given the name Maggie because her new family doesn't like her French name. She is not allowed to speak French in their presence. At one point she is offered the chance to go be with her own kind showing that even for all she has done to help the family she is bound to, they still don't consider her one of them.

She doesn't have adequate clothing or food, but the family is poor, and none of their children have what they need either.

Scenes in the story show Native Americans in a stereotypical light. They are seen as childlike, savages, easily distracted with a button or pretty fabric and dance, yet another character admires them for their knowledge of plants and healing.

This book shows the superstitions of the time period: Burning a baby on purpose to brand them against the danger of fire, They also view the travels of animals or weather as good signs or bad.

French is called foreign gibberish by one the most accepting characters, and the French dancing Marguerite does is seen as indecent by the settlers. On page 168 the "Injuns" and French are called pesky.

For all of that negative, I loved Marguerite. She is strong, brave, and faithful to those she loves. She endures much before she meets her "bound-out" family, but she continues on. The book ended before I hoped it would, and in my mind, I gave her the perfect ending. She seems smarter in many ways than the settlers, and I wondered if this was Rachel Fields way of putting the settlers' feeling of superiority in its place.

This books shows that while we as a nation have come a long way, in  many ways we hold on to our xenophobia with a death grip.

I gave this book 3 of 5 stars.

A few hours left to enter the giveaway!
On Friday, December 4, I will draw a winner to receive Usborne's Mosaic Picture Sticker Book a book for your child (or you) to create fun pictures with over 4,000 stickers. This book retails for $10.99. 

"How do I get entries in the drawing?" you ask. 

  • Follow my blog.
  • Leave a comment on my blog.
  • Share a link to my blog on Facebook, and let me know in the comments that you did so. 
  • For each $10 you order from the Usborne NICU book party, you get another entry. (See link below) Remember that the money you spend, goes to buy gifts for your own children and your order will be shipped directly to you. The NICU babies get the generous hostess gifts, and Usborne is very generous. 
  • Book your own Usborne Party with Catherine Johnson - she does Facebook parties and they are a lot of fun. Leave a message on this blog, and I will have her contact you. 
  • Invite a friend to follow my blog. Make sure they let me know that you sent them by posting in the comments. 
As you can see, you can get a lot of entries to win this fun book. I will draw the winner at 8:00 p.m. Mountain Time (Utah) on Friday, December 4th. 

Click here to Christmas shop at Usborne books. All hostess gifts will go toward purchasing books for the NICU babies at McKay Dee Hospital in Ogden, Utah to help them become lifelong readers. Make sure when you click on the link that it says, eShow: NICU Babies.

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