Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Book Review - Elan, Son of Two Peoples


Elan, Son of Two Peoples

By: Heidi Smith Hyde
Illustrated by: Mikela Prevost
Publisher: Kar-Ben Publishing
Publication Date: January 2014
ISBN: 978-0761390527
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: March 2014

Elan dreamily glanced out the railroad car window at a nearby trolley car. He and his parents were leaving San Francisco headed to Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was a special time in Elan’s life, an exciting one with lots of ceremony and excitement. Just the day before he’d celebrated his Bar Mitvah. With his grandfather’s tallit around his shoulders, he read from the Torah, chanting “from the portion called ‘Bamidbar,’ which tells of the Jewish people wandering in the desert.” Yet another celebration awaited the thirteen-year-old, but this one would be in the land of the Pueblo atop a mesa. Mama was an Indian and he would celebrate that part of his heritage.

As a boy of two worlds, two peoples, Elan “would take part in the Pueblo ceremony of becoming a man.” Mama gave him a special package on the train as they headed south. It was a special tallit that she had woven for him, a tallit he would wear when he read the Torah atop that mesa. There were Jewish symbols, but also “colorful stripes” symbolizing “yellow for the sun, blue for the corn, white for the rocks, and red for Mother Earth.” It was a time when Elan was becoming more aware of things, becoming aware of his Acoma Pueblo heritage, becoming a man. What would happen after his ceremony in the kiva?

This is a fascinating story of Elan, a boy with a Jewish father and a Native American Mother. The tale is based on the life of the eldest son of Solomon Bibo and Juana Valle, “granddaughter of a former Acoma Pueblo chief.” The tale, set forth in picture book format, doesn’t go into depth, but does bring out the symbolism, ceremony, and rites of passage for both the Jewish and Pueblo boys. The most striking line is when Elan’s mother says, “Always remember you are the son of two proud nations whose roots are as sturdy and deep as this oak tree.” The artwork is stunningly beautiful and adds tremendously to the tale. In the back of the book is a glossary and additional historical information about the Bibo family.

Quill says: This is a tale of the merging of two cultures with the coming of age of Etan, a Jewish, Native American boy that will fascinate young readers!