The Climb to the Top

Sky Dancers-the-climb-to-the-top-climb-fear-skill-familyI loved climbing trees as a child, that exhilarating, terrifying race to the top. I can still remember the thrill of reaching hand over hand until I found myself high in the canopy of leaves. The world appeared smaller, less intimidating. Hidden from sight, ensconced in a private world, my imagination soared. To this day heights both fascinate and intimidate me.

So, when I came across Sky Dancers written by Connie Ann Kirk and illustrated by Christy Hale, I was particularly intrigued. It tells the story of a young Native American boy’s family tradition as steel workers on some of New York’s largest, tallest and most famous constructions. It is a fictional piece based on history.  The boy’s family represents many Mohawk tribe members who actually worked the high steel in the early years of the twentieth century.

The story opens with John Cloud trying to talk himself into climbing a tree beyond where his fear holds him in place. He thinks about his dad, who at that very moment was walking the girders of a Manhattan sky scraper building it higher and higher into the sky.  John replays memories of his grandfather‘s tales of his own time as a sky walker.

The boy wonders if he’ll ever be as brave and strong as his dad and grandfather. He also wonders if his grandfather will ever fulfill his promise to bring him into the city and actually see his dad on the job. When that day finally comes, John is overawed with pride.

This is a sweet story of inter-generational links that bond families together. Click To Tweet It offers a welcome window onto an ethnic group that tends to be under served in children’s literature. The story is a refreshing break from the typical themes we see associated with Native Americans: riding horses, hunting, etc. And, it is not an “issues” book. On the contrary, it depicts these Americans as normal families who do the typical things all families do: love on another, share family stories, go to work, etc.

AQ #AdoptionAttunementSky-Dancers-the-climb-to-the-top-climb-fear-skill-family Adoption-attuned Lens:  This story easily lends itself to discussions of generational family patterns which could include both those of the birth and adoptive families. Each has value, attraction and contributes to making the child who he is and who he will choose to become.

Sky Dancers prods us to ponder the way we overcome our fears, grow our skills and develop mastery. One of the cultural memes about the Native Americans historical role in the high steel construction industry attributes their skill to their having a special aptitude. Some people feel that categorizing their bravery and skill as an unearned “gift” that comes to them effortlessly diminishes the personal fortitude and persistence it takes to overcome instinctive fear and perform in dangerous conditions. Sky Dancers offers an easy path to discussions about talent, perseverance and achievement and how each contributes to one’s success.

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6 comments

    • gswift says:

      Yes, Patricia, now more than ever, it is important that we see other cultures from a stance of fulness and not a cartoonish, narrow box.

  1. Joanne R. Fritz says:

    “It offers a welcome window onto an ethnic group that tends to be under served in children’s literature.” Definitely! It’s difficult to find enough Native American children’s books. Glad that this covers different ground too.

    Be sure to look for WE ARE GRATEFUL: OTSALIHELIGA, coming from Charlesbridge in 2018, by Cherokee Nation citizen Traci Sorell.

  2. Jane the Raincity Librarian says:

    This looks fantastic! Yes – I’m always looking for books that don’t simply portray Native Americans as icons of the past, or entries in history textbooks, but as vibrant cultures that have continued throughout North American history, and continue to thrive into the present!

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