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The Children's Bookshelf: Wilma's Way Home

WILMA’S WAY HOME: The Life of Wilma Mankiller written by Doreen Rappaport and illustrated by Linda Kukuk is a picture book biography of the first woman chief of the Cherokee Nation.

Wilma was born in 1945 in rural Oklahoma to a Cherokee father and a Dutch mother. She learned how to grow food and flowers and take care of the land along with her ten siblings. In 1956, however, the family was forced to relocate in San Francisco. There she missed the beautiful outdoors, the singing wrens, her garden and most of all her culture.

Wilma eventually married, had two daughters and went to College. She also became active in community work especially in the area of community development and business. In 1987 she was elected the first female principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.

The outstanding illustrations, rendered in watercolor, capture the essence of the Cherokee word Gadugi------the philosophy of helping others and solving real problems by working together. This was Wilma’s great contribution.

WILMA’S WAY HOME: The Life of Wilma Mankiller is well-researched by author Doreen Rappaport with nineteen quotations by Wilma smartly placed throughout the story. There is a useful timeline and pronunciation guide at the back of the book. Linda Kukuk’s illustrations have a spiritual quality especially the final picture of Wilma standing before an orange sunset cloaked in the beautiful flag of the Cherokee Nation. This picture book biography is designed for readers 7-10 years of age (Disney Hyperion, 2019).

Activity Questions for Wilma’s Way Home

The Cherokee word Gadugi stands for the action of helping others by solving problems and working together. In this book the author shows examples of Gadugi as neighbors help neighbors bring pipelines in to ensure water supplies to households. Can you see needs in your neighborhood that could use a little Gadugi? Make a list of simple ways you could help. Think about things that you can actually do such as shoveling snow for someone who cannot get out in the bad weather, picking up papers in an empty lot, walking a neighbor’s dog and such. Always work with your parents on these ideas before going ahead.

Look at the timeline to learn all the ways Wilma Mankiller was honored for her work including officially by President Clinton.

The author places many quotations by Wilma in this story. Reread them. Which ones speak to you? Which one is your favorite? Why?