HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: A Hogan for the Bluebird
Author: Ann Crowell
Illustrator: Harrison Begay
Publisher: Scribner’s, 1969
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Ages 8-12
Rating: **** 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Crowell, Ann. A Hogan for the Bluebird (published in 1969 by Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York City, NY). Little Eagle is a Navajo boy who lives in a hogan with his silversmith father Gray Wolf, his mother Laughing Rainbow, his baby sister Little Echo, his grandmother Many Rivers, and his dog Taggo. He wants more than anything else his own pony like his best friend Johnny Runs Backward, whether it’s black like his father’s, a pinto like Johnny’s, or even a pure white stallion. One day Gray Eagle trades some sheep for a pony and gives it to Little Eagle, who now becomes Blue Eagle and names the horse Black Star. His older sister, Singing Willow, has been at the mission boarding school but is now graduating and coming home. She has learned to play the piano and wants more than anything else to have her own piano.
However, a large number of the sheep are lost due to eating poisonous milkweed while being watched by lazy Ned-Joe so that the whole family could attend the Blessing Way ceremony. Thus, now there is no money to buy a piano even if they wanted to do so. Is there something Blue Eagle can do to help get a piano for Singing Willow? It might involve giving up his pony. Or is there some way that perhaps both of them can have what they want? Various references are made to Navajo gods, praying to those gods, smoking a pipe, drinking firewater, belief in ghosts and witches, Uncle Monty Blue Mountain’s having two wives, and practicing divination. And some tension between the “old ways” championed by Grandmother and the “new ways” adopted by Singing Willow occurs.
At the same time, while the plot moves a little slowly on occasion, A Hogan for the Bluebird by Ann Crowell is an interesting little story that weaves desire and discipline. It reminds us that we order our world by what is important to us and illustrates how our families and culture shape, not only us, but also the world which we inhabit. Mention is made of a Navajo who “now followed Jesus” and “walks the Jesus Way,” although He is also specifically called the “white men’s Jesus” at one point. There are extensive details of Navajo life, and the book would make a good literary companion to a study of Southwestern Native Americans.