The fall Maine 200 Bicentennial story is by Maine author Scott Kelley. Each season a different story is installed on the mile long trail at Douglas Memorial Woods in Eliot, a Great Works Regional Land Trust property on Rt. 103.
Kelley is an artist who lives on an island off the coast of Maine with his wife, Gail, son, Abbott, and an imaginary pig named Lunchbox. He received a BFA from The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York, and attended the Slade School of Fine Art in London, and The Glassel School of Art, Museum of Fine Arts in Houston.
This book was chosen for the Fall StoryWalk™ to represent Maine indigenous people for the bicentennial. It is colorful, slyly humorous, and uses portraits of Wabanaki elders to tell the story.
We learned after we had selected this book that there were concerns about the story and illustrations from native people so we have added some questions and answers for you to think about as you read the story.
It looks like it is a Native story.
The American Indian Children in Literature blog provides comments and reviews of children’s books that depict Indigenous peoples. Dr. DeBorah Reese had these questions about the book.
Is the author Native?
Dr. Reese: He is not.
Has the author learned about the people and tribes he is writing about?
Dr. Reese: It doesn’t seem like it.
Has he used what he has learned in writing and illustrating this book?
Dr. Reese: There are parts of the book that are not correct.
Has he included information to help us understand how he decided to write and illustrate this book?
Dr. Reese: He has not.
Dr. Reese finds that this author has not learned enough about Maine tribes to offer this story as a true representation of their history and culture. Read her review here: https://socialjusticebooks.org/i-am-birch/
What do you think about the book now that we have looked more closely at how it was written?
“Thanks to the Animals” by Allen Sockabasin as a good book to read about the Passamaquoddy tribe in Maine.