Summer Reading Book Club
With summer finally here, many kids are free from formal school until the fall. But, that doesn’t mean we can’t sneak in some fun learning opportunities! Join our mini virtual children’s book club, perfect for some summer reading. The two books chosen center around Florida history, traditional Seminole ways of life, and Seminole stories. Ideal for warm Florida nights around a campfire, these stories draw in and engage readers of all ages. Both books also feature stunning art, showcasing the beauty of the Everglades and traditional Seminole clothing. So, this summer, pick up a book and read with us!
How does it work?
Unlike a traditional children’s book club, we will not be doing a formal in-person discussion. Instead, this will be a much more casual reimagining of a virtual book club. This post will also feature first impressions of both books, as well as some background history and context. Both books are featured at the Museum Store, as well as on Amazon (She Sang Promise: The Story of Betty Mae Jumper, Seminole Tribal Leader, and Legends of the Seminoles, Stories by Betty Mae Jumper). In addition to this post, each book will be featured separately on the Florida Seminole Tourism social media pages with discussion questions and activities. See the end of this post for dates to check back in, as well as additional resources. Happy reading this summer!
She Sang Promise: The Story of Betty Mae Jumper, Seminole Tribal Leader
Written by Jan Goddown Annino, Illustrated by Lisa Desimini, Afterword by Moses Jumper Jr.
The first selection for our virtual book club is She Sang Promise. Following the inspiring life of the late, Betty Mae Jumper, it is a picture book biography perfect for K-3rd grade readers. The beginning of She Sang Promise weaves the cry of a newborn girl, who “sings promise in her cry” (p. 5) in with the sounds of a spring breeze through cabbage palm. From that first heady moment, you know that this will be a story like no other. Follow Betty Mae Jumper as she finds her path. First, when Betty Mae narrowly misses being thrown into the swamp for being half white. Then, by demanding to attend school, and traveling to North Carolina to do so. Eventually, she would return to Florida and dedicate her life to helping her people, and preserving their stories and way of life.
Completely unique, this engaging book will delight children and adults alike. Rich illustrations depicting scenes from Betty Mae Jumper’s life, and by extension the Everglades, accompany her biography. The book also includes a glossary of terms. These range from Miccosukee and Creek words included in the book to native Florida plants shown in the illustrations. It also includes an afterword by Moses “Big Shot” Jumper Jr., Betty Mae Jumper’s son. An accomplished poet and author, he shares a story about his mother and the impact her dedication to education and lessons had on his life. To learn more about him, read a Q & A interview with family friend Peter B. Gallagher here in 2012. Overall, this book is a relatively easy read, packed with inspiration and opportunities to learn about one of the most influential Seminole tribal leaders in history.
Legends of the Seminoles, Stories by Betty Mae Jumper
Illustrated by Guy LaBree, Foreword by James E. Billie, Introduction by Peter B. Gallagher
This book is a stunning collection of Seminole legends, as told by Betty Mae Jumper. In She Sang Promise, we were introduced to Betty Mae Jumper; from nurse to leader. One of the roles she took seriously was a storyteller. In this book, we get to hear those stories. The writing is more advanced, and perfect for older children or parents to read aloud. While the writing is higher level than She Sang Promise, the stories are short and ideal for most readers. From stories with lying Rabbit, the Twins (Thunder and Lightning), and the Little People, you will be drawn in to every legend from the start. Paired with each tale, Betty Mae provides insight to each story before it begins. Sometimes, this is sharing where she first heard it. For other stories, this includes explaining the meaning. Many provide a lesson, like in “The Skunk and the Porcupine.”
In addition to Betty Mae Jumper’s stories, this collection also includes a foreword by James E. Billie. If you recall, we talked a bit about James Billie here in a previous blog post. In his foreword, he shares the story of Creation, and how Wind helped Panther and the other animals come to be on earth. The book also features an introduction by Peter B. Gallagher and a poem by Moses “Big Shot” Jumper Jr. In his poem “The Corn Lady”, Big Shot shares the story of his mother. Paintings by master Florida painter late Guy LaBree bring each story to life. Famous for his naturalistic style and accurate depiction of Seminole life, LaBree has many paintings featured in the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum Collection. Whatever your age or interests, this collection is worth the read. It brings you right to the heart of the Everglades with every story.
Betty Mae Tiger Jumper: Early Life
You may have noticed while reading along that both books discussed center beloved Seminole leader Betty Mae Jumper. From her picture book biography to the words of her stories, her impact is apparent. Betty Mae Tiger Jumper was born near Indiantown, FL in 1923 to her mother, Ada Tiger, and white father. Part of the Snake Clan, her grandmother Mary Tiger named her Pa-Ta-Kee. At five years old, Betty Mae and her family left their family camp to move to the Dania Reservation (now Hollywood). Mixed heritage children were not accepted at the time, and her family left their family camp to protect her. An incredibly bright child, Betty Mae left Florida at 14 to go to school after begging for an education. Due to racial segregation in Florida, however, she could not attend school locally. She graduated from the Cherokee Indian Boarding School in North Carolina in 1945.
Betty Mae Jumper was one of the first Florida Seminoles to earn a high school diploma. She was trilingual, proficient in Creek, Miccosukee, and learning English at 14. After graduating high school, Betty Mae went to Oklahoma. She enrolled in the Kiowa Teaching Hospital, and became a nurse. After this, she returned to Florida and spent the rest of her life helping the Seminole people. She trained and worked as a field nurse, and helped hesitant people begin to trust formal medicine. She was a translator, nurse, storyteller, co-founded the Tribe’s newspaper in 1956 and in 1967 became the first chairwoman of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Betty Mae Jumper was dedicated to improving educational opportunities for Seminole children, Seminole healthcare, and improving the Tribe’s financial situation.
The legacy of Betty Mae Jumper is one that is wide reaching. Her influence and dedication to education, medicine, and the perseverance of the Seminole people had long lasting impacts. Beloved by the community, Betty Mae also published three books (including Legends of the Seminoles discussed above!) Also, she was awarded the very first Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native American Journalist’s Association for her work with the Seminole Tribune.
She also held Native American Indian Women’s Association honors, Florida Women’s Hall of Fame honors, and an honorary doctorate from Florida State University. In 2021, a mural celebrating Florida female trailblazers commemorated her along Zora Neale Hurston and environmentalist Marjorie Harris Carr. In probably the most fitting tribute, the Betty Mae Jumper Medical Clinic was completed on the Hollywood Reservation in October of 2020. While you read the books shared above, take a moment to appreciate and reflect on the amazing life and legacy of Betty Mae Tiger Jumper!
Check back in!
Looking to follow along with our virtual children’s book club and some summer reading? Firstly, check back in on our Instagram or Facebook in the next few weeks for discussion questions and activities. Then, discuss your impressions and thoughts in the comments! So, mark your calendar and follow along.
She Sang Promise: July 14th – CLICK BELOW for printable PDF of the Reading Comprehension Crossword, and our activity and discussion questions in Powerpoint format!
Legends of the Seminoles: July 28th
Looking for more? The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum has many educational resources for kids and caregivers. Find activity books, reading lists, and free curriculum for all ages here. Or, better yet, schedule a field trip or tour for your school group! July is also Teacher Appreciation Month. So, teachers with valid school ID can get FREE admission to the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum and Cypress Dome for the month of July.