Table of Contents

    Cover Story
  • Free A Cauldron of Opposition in Duncan's Hometown

    An Interview with Karen Lewis and Jackson Potter

    translation missing: en.articles.interviewers Bob Peterson

    The new leadership of the Chicago Teachers Union explains how they won and where they're going.

  • Cover Stories
  • The Proving Grounds

    School 'Rheeform' in Washington, D.C.

    Authored By Leigh Dingerson

    Michelle Rhee is the exemplar of Duncan's school "reform." What's really happening to children and teachers in D.C.?

  • California’s Perfect Storm

    Authored By David Bacon

    Last year, demonstrations by students, teachers, parents, and staff erupted throughout California - with the potential to redefine the fight for public education.

  • Book Reviews
  • Free Teacher Layoffs and War

    Edited By the editors of Rethinking Schools
  • Features
  • Free Who Can Stay Here?

    Documentation and citizenship in children’s literature

    Authored By Grace Cornell

    Picture books about immigration and citizenship rarely portray the issues that children from immigrant families face every day. Here is a framework to help teachers choose books and open discussion.

  • Free Deporting Elena’s Father

    Authored By Melissa Bollow Tempel

    The story of one child whose father was deported casts light on a growing crisis.

  • The Other Internment

    Teaching the hidden story of Japanese Latin Americans during WWII

    Authored By Moe Yonamine

    A role play engages students in exploration of a little-known piece of history - the deportation of people of Japanese origin from Latin American countries to U.S. internment camps and back to Japan as POWs.

  • You Are Where You Sit

    Uncovering the lessons of classroom furniture

    Students analyze the impact of different seating arrangements in class, linking issues of power, space, and hierarchy to the world outside.

  • A Social Justice Data Fair

    Questioning the world through math

    Math is at the center of student-generated projects on environmental, social, and political themes.

  • Departments Free
    Action Education
  • Puerto Rican Students Win Major Victory

    Authored By Jody Sokolower
  • Good Stuff
  • Tricksters and Their Opposite

    Authored By Herbert Kohl
  • Review
  • Drop That Knowledge

    Recognizing and unlocking the wisdom of everyday people

  • Resources
  • Our picks for books, videos, websites, and other social justice education resources.

Tricksters and Their Opposite

<p>Tricksters and Their Opposite</p>



Illustration: Michelle Silva ©2010 MATT DEMBICKI

Trickster: Native American Tales
Edited by Matt Dembicki
(Fulcrum Books, 2010)
496 pp., $27.95

By Heart: Poetry, Prison, and Two Lives
By Spoon Jackson
and Judith Tannenbaum
(New Village Press, 2010)
200 pp., $24.95

Trickster grew out of a wonderful and slightly wild idea Matt Dembicki, a graphic novelist and comic book artist, came up with after discovering the range, breadth, and ingenuity of Native American tales. In particular, he fell in love with trickster tales and thought it would be wonderful to pair Native American traditional storytellers with graphic novelists and comic book artists. The result is a delightful, beautiful, rich book that contains 21 tales, each told by a different storyteller and illustrated by a different graphic artist. Amongst the tricksters are raven, rabbit, coyote, raccoon, and alligator; among the tribes represented are the Yup’ik, Cherokee, Choctaw, Penobscot, Creek, and Dine nations. Each tale is rendered in a different style, created through the collaboration between each specific artist and storyteller. I found the results amazing. Each tale comes alive as a complex linguistic-visual experience in which the words and the pictures simply cannot be separated.

For example, “Wolf and the Mink” is told by Elaine Grinnell, a S’klallam elder, and illustrated by graphic novelist Michelle Silva. The first page has a drawing of a mink thinking about how hungry he is. Below the title is a free-floating bubble in which the narrator says: “Well, hello there to everyone. What a story it is! Do you see yourself in this story? It’s about the wolf and the mink.” We are swept into the story, which ends with the narrator expressing the moral: “As the Kallams say, ‘I’tt I’kwan, I’tt I’kwan.’ That means, ‘If you snooze, you lose.’”

This book is a delight to read—for both children and adults. I find it hard to imagine anyone who won’t be charmed, educated, and pleased to have discovered such a treasure.

On a different note, By Heart: Poetry, Prison, and Two Lives is the story of the relationship between Judith Tannenbaum, a writer who teaches at San Quentin State Prison, and Spoon Jackson, who is serving a sentence of life without parole. Jackson and Tannenbaum have been working together since the 1980s; this poetic memoir/diary tells their story and contains examples of their work. The story begins with the temptations encountered while growing up poor and shunned, and explains how Spoon came to murder someone. Through Judith’s teaching, Spoon discovered his poetic voice, his moral compass, and his way of reaching beyond his cell to the world.

What is special about the book is its portrayal of the lifelong commitment the two authors have made to their relationship, to the power of the word to transform reality, and to the struggle for justice and equity. This would be a wonderful junior or senior high school text, providing, as it does, an authentic tale about a collaboration that continues despite the bars, gates, and guards that permanently separate the participants.


Herbert Kohl’s most recent book is The Herb Kohl Reader.