cover image Jingle Dancer

Jingle Dancer

Cynthia Leitich Smith, Morrow Junior. HarperCollins, $17.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-688-16241-2

Smith, a mixed-blood member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, convincingly juxtaposes cherished Native American tradition and contemporary lifestyle in this smooth debut. Watching a videotape of Grandma Wolfe performing a jingle dance, Jenna is determined to dance at an upcoming powwow. But she lacks the cone-shaped, tin jingles that are sewn on to dancers' dresses as part of the regalia. The girl walks down a suburban sidewalk lined with modern houses as she sets out to visit her great-aunt, a neighbor, a cousin and Grandma Wolfe, all of whom lend her jingles for her dress. Smith's language consciously evokes legend. For example, ""As Sun caught a glimpse of the Moon"" indicates the time of day; and Jenna is careful to borrow only a limited number of jingles, ""not wanting to take so many that [another's] dress would lose its voice."" Van Wright and Hu's (Jewels) lifelike renderings capture the genuine affection between Jenna and these caring older women. Their easy integration of Native and standard furnishings and clothing gracefully complement Smith's heartening portrait of a harmonious meshing of old and new. Ages 4-10. (Apr.)