Arlene Hirschfelder’s passion for writing nonfiction traces back to her Chicago childhood home where she grew up surrounded by thousands of history books. She still pictures her father, a physician, at his desk authoring articles dealing with medical history. Because her family believed reading and writing were just as important as breathing and eating, she decided to carry on the tradition. She has also been motivated by a request presented to the mayor of her hometown by a group of Indian people in December of 1927: “The Indian has long been hurt by unfair [history books for children]. We ask only that our story be told in fairness.” Since she penned a University of Chicago Master’s thesis dealing with stereotypical and inaccurate portrayals of Native Americans in U.S. high school history textbooks, she has striven to give readers accurate pictures of Native people, past and present.

   Some of Arlene’s book titles reflect her favorite audience: A Kid’s Guide to Native American History: More Than 50 Activities, Children of the U.S.A., Children of Native America Today, and Rising Voices: The Writings of Young Native Americans, an IRA Children’s Choice and Teachers’ Choice in 1993, was chosen for the White Raven Book Award by the International Youth Library in Munich, Germany. In 2011, Teaching Tolerance magazine named Rising Voices “an enduring classic.” In addition to authoring 25 books, many award winning, Arlene is series editor of “It Happened To Me,” 32 nonfiction books (and still counting) for teen readers published by Scarecrow Press.

   Besides visiting middle and high school classrooms and college campuses stretching from Alaska to Maine, Arlene gives conference presentations, workshops for teachers and librarians, and consults with filmmakers, museums, and publishers.

Selected Reviews of Arlene Hirschfelder’s Books

A Kid’s Guide to Native American History: More Than 50 Activities
Yvonne Wakim Dennis and Arlene Hirschfelder
   This book is devoted to crafts, biographies, and the history of Native Americans. It also discusses stereotypes and attempts to correct them. People of the First Nation are divided geographically from the northeast to Hawaii. The crafts, with simple directions, attempt to connect to the individual tribe’s culture but a few, such as holding a bike rodeo and making bike saddle fenders, are a stretch. The mini-biographies are interesting, but readers would need to look elsewhere for more in-depth information. The resource section contains an extensive list of Native American museums and cultural centers. Unfortunately there is no index, which makes navigation through the text difficult. Bibliography. Glossary. Timeline. Additional Selection. 2010, Chicago Review Press, Ages 8 to 12, $16.95. Reviewer: Joanne Ligamari (Library Media Connection, November/December 2010).

Children of the U.S.A.
Maya Ajmera, Yvonne Wakim Dennis, Arlene Hirschfelder, Cynthia Pon
   The collaborative work of Maya Ajmera, Yvonne Wakimk Dennis, Arlene Hirschfelder and Cynthia Pon, “Children Of The U.S.A.” offers boys and girls a profusely illustrated celebration of the diverse and ethnically varied cultural and religious backgrounds of kids in this country. Children are featured as the live and play in fifty-one American cities (one for each state) and represent kids from all classes and walks of society, all colors and both genders. A simply wonderful celebration of American diversity in the form of boys and girls from across the country, Children Of The U.S.A. is a welcome and enthusiastically recommended addition to family, school, and community library collections. The Global Fund for Children, $23.95. Reviewer: Midwest Book Review (Children’s Bookwatch, March 2008).

Children of Native America Today
Yvonne Wakim Dennis and Arlene Hirschfelder
   Brief profiles of many Native American communities are provided in this enlightening and informative book. Children from the Yurok community in California to the Wabanaki community in Maine are seen celebrating their culturally rich native customs as well as acting and interacting as typical American children. There are many vibrant photographs of smiling Native American children enjoying every aspect of their life. The forward indicates that the author’s intention is to teach the reader that Native American children are just like all other American children. Additionally, the authors intend to dispel the negative stereotypes that may, unfortunately, still exist today. Both goals are accomplished as this book provides the reader with a friendly glimpse of the native cultures that contribute to the diversity that makes America great. 2003, Charlesbridge, Ages 8 up, $19.95. Reviewer: Denise Daley (Children’s Literature).

Program Details

Kick Butts: Tobacco Adverting (Grades 4-8) This hands-on workshop takes youngsters on a journey through the world of cigarette, cigar, and chew advertising using ads from the 1920s through 2012. Children learn about methods used by advertising agencies to target certain groups. Workshop participants are encouraged to design their own counter-tobacco ads.

Rising Voices: Writings by Young Native Americans (Grades 4-12) Selected powerful and perceptive poems and narrative writings by young Native Americans from the “lower 48” and Alaska explore how Native youngsters feel about their identity, family, homelands, and confrontations with racism. The workshop features poetry writing and performance inspired by Rising Voices.

Photo Odyssey: Solomon Carvalho’s Remarkable Western Adventure, 1853-54 (Grades 4-12) The nuts-and-bolts of researching, writing, and illustrating a biography of a portrait painter who made an extraordinary trip across America as the first photographer to accompany an exploring expedition to the West. Much to Arlene’s delight, after Photo Odyssey was published, it inspired a feature length documentary film by an award-winning filmmaker. The presentation includes several film clips from “Carvalho’s Journey” and time for questions and answers.

From Aquinnah to Unalaska: Indian Country Today (Grades 7-12) Students learn up-to-date information about Indian Country in the United States: from astronauts and tribal colleges to Native-produced films and topnotch Native and non-Native websites and blogs. The session includes information about hard realities that Native people experience, including threats to sovereignty, sacred sites, languages, and cultural integrity. Slide/PowerPoint, film clips, and excerpts from written materials illustrate the issues.

The “Rs” of Writing Nonfiction (Grades 7-12) Ms. Hirschfelder takes young people on a journey through the “Rs” of writing nonfiction: from Research to Rewrites to Rewards (Royalties and Reviews). She provides a “behind-the-scenes” look at proposal writing, rejection letters from editors, correcting manuscripts, book jacket designs, reviews/blurbs, footnoting, plagiarizing, copyright issues, marketing online and off, and more. She leaves time for a question-and-answer period and shares lists of works by young authors, books about writing, and online markets for young authors.

Expanding Your Resource Materials (For Educators) An interactive workshop will involve teachers and librarians in identifying and evaluating K-12 educational materials that deal with Native cultures, histories, and current issues. The session includes discussion about books and print and online magazines from Native and non-Native press as well as audio-visual materials, websites, and blogs.

Additional Information

To learn more about Arlene Hirschfelder and her publications please visit author-illustr-source.com/arlenehirschfelder.htm.