Book Review: Powwow Day by Traci Sorell

Powwow Day by Traci Sorell follows River as she returns to the powwow grounds after being ill. She isn’t yet well enough to dance again, and she sorely misses participating in the traditions she loves.

River’s story is beautifully told with simple flowing language that makes her narrative easy to follow for little ones while still being full of meaning. The explanation of traditions including the drums, jingle dress, grand entry, grass dancers, and more are wonderful educational tools that don’t disrupt River’s narrative. The importance of these traditions translates clearly, and the reader sees the impact of both participating and observing inter-tribal powwows.

The overall tone and voice is hopeful while also acknowledging the hardship of not being able to participate in something you love because you are still recovering from illness. River’s story will be relatable for readers of all ages. River’s yearning to get back to normal life is thwarted when she doesn’t have the energy to stand, and when she can no longer feel the drum’s heartbeat rising through her feet. River’s story is sure to encourage empathy, while the people around her who help her throughout her story stand out and are sure to inspire readers to look for ways to help others.

The illustrations perfectly match the tone and voice of the narrative. Chickasaw Nation citizen Madelyn Goodnight captures River’s emotions and the powwow setting in her gorgeous illustrations, fully encompassing the vivid experience of attending a powwow. Each page is full of gorgeous illustrations, capturing the beauty of individuality and community simultaneously.

Traci Sorell is one of my favorite authors and a fellow Cherokee Nation citizen. I am in awe of the work she is doing to have more indigenous representation. Each of her books is absolutely excellent. While you wait for Powwow Day to release on February 8, 2022, I highly recommend her other books. I’m fully obsessed with We are Grateful Otsaliheliga, At the Mountain’s Base, and We Are Still Here. Sorell consistently creates Native stories with a strong narrative while also teaching about Native experiences, whether it is in her nonfiction book (We Are Still Here) or by weaving facts into her fictional books (At the Mountain’s Base discusses female Native service members, We are Grateful Otsaliheliga on modern Native experiences). These picture books are great to read aloud and teach kids and their grownups that Native Americans are not a part of the past, but are real living people.

Powwow Day will be available February 8, 2022 from Charlesbridge. Thank you to Ms. Sorell, NetGalley, and Charlesbridge for an advanced copy of the book so I could share my honest opinions.

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