Here are two new uplifting picture books, each set in different cultures, which tell the stories of young girls overcoming difficult situations.

  • “Spoon Song” (2022, Words Matter Publishing, by Ruth Siburt, ages 3-7) combines music, humor, and heart in a tale of persistence.

Each year in the spring, Sister’s aunt, uncle, and cousin come to visit their home in the hills, and their music makes the mountains ring. Sister, who narrates, lets us know her problem.

“Brother picks a guitar; Auntie plucks the bass. You ought to hear the fiddlin’ of my cousin, Jace. But I can’t play a note and it’s a pure disgrace. How I long to make our mountains ring.”

Sister tries singing with them, but when she opens her mouth, “vultures fly.” Trying the jaw-harp “nearly jarred by teeth apart.”

Bright, inviting illustrations bring the characters to life, including the dog, who adds humor to each scene. Quatrains move the story along. “Will I ever make our mountain ring?” Sister worries as her relatives leave in their rattly van.

“Sister, now don’t you fret,” Brother says. “You just haven’t found your talent yet.” And sister won’t give up. But as summer turns to fall, trying Grandma’s banjo and Pa’s whistle are both unsuccessful.

However, “Then one day in a wintery gloom, wishin’ I could play just one little tune, I take notice of two silver spoons, whisperin; we can help your mountains ring.”

Sister holds them back-to-back and knocks them “on my knee with a gentle whack.” Does she have the knack? Throughout the winter, she practices playing the spoons. “Clink, clunk, clunkety-oops!” It’s not easy!

“I don’t care if my knees bruise blue, if my fingers fall off before I’m through. Play with the stumps is what I’ll do. But I’m gonna learn to play them spoons.”

“Clink, clank, clunkey, clank.” She keeps it up until spring, when her relatives arrive in their rattly van. “We’re about to make the mountains ring!” she says, spoons ready. “How fine we make our mountains ring!”

This fun read aloud ends with instructions for readers to learn how to play the spoons themselves.

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  • In “Powwow Day” (2022, Charlesbridge, written by Traci Sorell, illustrated by Madelyn Goodnight, ages 3-7) River wants to dance at Powwow Day as she always has, but she’s been sick and is too weak to dance.

Will she ever dance again, River worries as she gets ready for the event. At the powwow grounds, she watches as her sister and friends prepare to participate in the jingle dress competition.

“Mama squeezes me close. ‘Doing OK?’ I nod, but I’m not.”

Grand Entry begins and her uncles strike a large drum together and sing, “EH-yah, EH-yah, WEY-eh-yah-ah.” Vibrant digital illustrations bring in color, warmth and detail as we see the ceremony.

Deciding to try dancing the Grand Entry dance, River joins the long line behind the elders. However, she “can’t feel the drum’s heartbeat,” and her sister leads her back to sit down.

Sad, she watches everyone dance, “all connected to the drum, Mother Earth and one another.”

“After Grand Entry, an elder prays that our dances honor the Creator, that our culture and language will stay strong, and that healing will come to those who need it. Like me.”

Leaning against her father, River watches the fancy dancers twirl. When the girl’s jingle dress dance begins, River’s friend says she’ll dance for her. Over the next two spreads, the text brings in sound, feeling, and tradition. We see the motion and feel the music, illustrations glowing in warm tones.

Finally, as the healing dance ends, River is transformed by the strength of her community. “I stand. I open my heart. I feel the drum fully now. Then I know ...

“I will join them at the next powwow. I will dance again.”

This beautiful contemporary Native story ends with informative back matter about powwows.

Alice B. McGinty (alicebmcginty.com) is the award-winning author of almost 50 books for children and runs a summer writing camp for teens, Words on Fire. She just celebrated the release of two books, ‘The Girl Who Named Pluto: The Story of Venetia Burney’ (Schwartz and Wade Books) and ‘Pancakes to Parathas: Breakfast Around the World’ (Little Bee Books).

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