83. If You Lived With the Iroquois

...If You Lived With the Iroquois by Ellen Levine
Illustrated by Shelly Hehenberger

Pages: 80
Ages: 7+
Finished: Apr. 23, 2009
First Published: 1998
Genre: children, non-fiction
Rating: 3.5/5

Reason for Reading: read aloud to the 8yo as part of our curriculum.

First sentence:

Before there was a United States, there were hundreds of thousands, some say millions, of people living on the land between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Comments: After a brief introduction to introduce the Iroquois and a map to show the land they occupied the rest of the book follows a question and answer format. The book is very thorough and every possible topic that would interest a child is presented: food, clothing, family relations, lodgings, games, sports, what boys and men did opposed to what girls and women did and many more topics. The text is written to the reader in the second person speaking to "you" directly as if you had asked the question yourself. The book is profusely illustrated with each page being completely coloured itself, no white pages to be found here. We read a previous book in this series earlier this year on the Hopi Indians and my son enjoyed this one much more. I'm not sure whether it was because of the the writing itself or because these Indians are from where we live that he had more interest.

I only have a couple of minor problems with the book. One is the few pages that discuss the Iroquois creation story. It is compared to the Biblical creation story and then to many other religious creation stories and it is noted how similar they all are. The tone is that all religious stories are just that, stories. I found that disrespectful, and, personally, I saw very little similarities between the Iroquois and Biblical views of creation. The other was that when discussing the area, the words America or the United States were often used when it is obviously clear from the map that the area inhabited by the Iroquois is equally in modern day Canada and the US. I always used the word North America and sometimes even used just the word Canada. If they can just use United States, I can just use Canada! But otherwise everything else was unbiased. The book only pertains to pre-white man times which enables it to keep to a very evenhanded presentation.


  1. I think I was about 8 when we studied the Iroquois in school. I remember thinking they were pretty cool, actually... We didn't read books like this though.

  2. We have this book, too, along with many of Sonia Bleeker's books.

    While I consider the period from 1930 to 1965 to be the "Golden Age" in children's books, both fiction and non-fiction, I think most of the writers had no real religious faith to guide or inform their writing. Unfortunately, it's still true today, but we have a host of other ills that also plague children's books now.

    I'm glad you're reviewing some of these older gems and pointing out that judicious editing can make them very usable in one's personal library!


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