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She Sang Promise: The Story of Betty Mae…

She Sang Promise: The Story of Betty Mae Jumper, Seminole Tribal Leader

by J.G. Annino

Other authors: Lisa Desimini (Illustrator), Moses Jumper (Afterword)

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This biography begins with the birth of Betty Mae Tiger in Florida, 1923. As she is born in the "woman's birth camp," Betty Mae came out crying and singing "promise in her cry." She grew up in the Seminole camp until the age of five when men came to take her away and throw her into the swamp because they believed she had bad spirits due to her non-tribal father. However, her great-uncle Jimmie Gopher pulled out his rifle and forced the men away; because of this, Betty Mae, her mother, and her grandmother all moved to the Dania Reservation where the Elders live. It was here that she learned all about the history of her tribe and learned how to tame any animal. As she grew bigger, she determined that "every living thing has a purpose, and that's not to make it dead." While on a Mission trip to Oklahoma, Betty Mae encountered reading for the first time and determined that she needed to go to school, so she pestered the elders and her mother and grandmother until they allow her to attend school. While she loves learning, she also misses her people greatly and so tells stories to her new friends about the place she grew up. After she finishes her education, she moved to Oklahoma and trains to be a nurse for two years and soon realizes that she can help her people with her new knowledge of medicine and although the men don't want anything to do with her new medicine, soon women and children came to seek her help. After she married, she and her husband worked together at a tourist job as alligator wrestlers. In her free time, Betty Mae tracked down the kids from her tribe and cleaned them up, told them the story of how she was allowed to go to school, and eventually got each child to school. Many changes happened to the Seminole tribe so Betty Mae became the voice of her people and was elected as the first woman representative in the modern world! The new leader always kept time to sit with the children of her tribe and tell them the stories she learned during her time with the Elders. ( )
  Miss_Annie_O | Apr 12, 2015 |
Adult Reader Reaction: Beautiful in story, illustration, and spirit. When I read the poem in the preface, I was a little bit concerned about a biography written in rhyme. But it isn't. Even though the story is told in short stanzas, they are beautifully written and packed with power and hope.

Pros: Gorgeous illustrations complement this picture book biography of Betty Mae Jumper. Readers are in for a treat!

To read our full review, go to The Reading Tub®.
  TheReadingTub | Apr 28, 2014 |
This book was a breath of fresh air in so many ways. To read a book describing someone about whom I’ve never heard was a welcomed dose of something new.

Betty Mae Jumper was "the first female elected leader of the unconquered Seminole Tribe of Florida," giving young female readers another role model (and for something besides fashion, which many writers seem to harp on when writing about the US’s First Lady, though she has much more to offer).

Throughout her life, Betty Mae made furthering her education a top priority, all while facing what could be called an identity crisis. Her dad was white so she had to face some racism from her tribe. Several of them came to kill her right after she was born by throwing her in the swamp. After that attempt, her parents decided they should probably move away. It would be interesting to know the author’s ethnic affiliation, as it seems no racist encounters with the white world in Betty Mae Jumper’s life were discussed. It would definitely lend itself to the story by exploring just how strong Jumper was. Leaving it out could show some bias if the author is white, which weakens her credibility. It is understandable, however, that in a picture book, it is difficult to include every facet of someone’s life.

Aside from racism, she also faced sexism, which was typical during the time she was elected, the time of the women’s liberation movement.

She used her medical skills from her nurse training and her ability to speak English to help out her tribe. Her dedication got her elected in 1967.

The book tells a story of determination. At the end, the author includes an afterword by Jumper’s son and a Chronology of her tribe, as well as her own life.

There is an author's note which the author uses to provide additional information on Betty Mae Jumper. The book also ends with a list of selected references, and a list of websites readers can use to find more information.

Annino’s writing is superbly poetic and reads rhythmically. This can be seen through the line "She tells stories about swamp custard apple trees, alligator mamas floating babies on their backs, orchids, cabbage palms, her tamed tall crane, and her dog, Jeep, who always tugged her home from the dangers of the wood."

Though well thought out, the writing and vocabulary is not too difficult or intense. It is perfect for sparking imagery in the imaginations of children.

The book reads like a fiction story, and does not come off formal and uninteresting.

Most of the information in the book comes from primary sources. The author met Jumper at a Native American festival and interviewed her and her son. Moses.

The illustrations are painted, vibrant, deep colors that instead of jumping off the page at you, tend to pull you in.
  kljohns8 | Mar 11, 2014 |
This picture-book biography of Betty Mae Jumper, born Betty Mae Tiger in 1923, chronicles the life of the first woman chief of the Seminole nation of Florida. In a sing-song tone, Jan Godown Annino, who is personally acquainted with her subject, describes Betty Mae's childhood, her family's decision to move, because her life was threatened (Elders tried to throw her into a swamp at the age of five, because of the Ho-la-wa-gus, or bad spirits, that she inherited from her French father), and her discovery of writing, and determination to attend school. Her traditional education with her family (both her mother and grandmother were Medicine Women), her formal education at the Cherokee Indian Boarding School and the Kiowa Teaching Hospital, her years as a nurse and a translator for her people, and her election as the Seminole's first female chief in 1967, are all covered in the text. The rear material includes an afterword by Betty Mae's son, Moses Jumper, Jr., a more detailed account of the author's meeting with Betty Mae and of Betty Mae's life, and a historical chronology of the Seminole people.

She Sang Promise: The Story of Betty Mae Jumper, Seminole Tribal Leader is an informative book about a fascinating Native American woman whose accomplishments deserve to be better known. I've been meaning to read Betty Mae Jumper's Legends of the Seminoles, so I was glad to learn something about the author's life! I was a little more ambivalent about the text itself (as opposed to Betty Mae's story), as I sometimes found its sing-song quality a little distracting. Leaving that aside, the story itself is engrossing, and Lisa Desimini's colorful illustrations were appealing. Recommended to young readers who enjoy biographies, or are interested in the Native American experience and women leaders. ( )
  AbigailAdams26 | Apr 10, 2013 |
Showing 4 of 4
Grade 2–6—Young readers are introduced to the life and accomplishments of an amazing person: the first woman ever to be elected as a tribal leader of the Florida Seminole Tribe. As a young girl, Jumper demanded to learn to read, sought the education and training needed to become a nurse, and returned to her people to fight diseases and maladies that could easily be avoided with proper medical attention. Annino tells her story in free verse, but supplements the telling with a wealth of information at the back, including a time line of Seminole presence in Florida, an afterword by Jumper's son, and a more inclusive exposition of the woman's life. The book also contains an extensive glossary. The narrative itself has only a few headings that indicate specific years and places, which may lead to some confusion as to when a particular phase of her life ends and the next begins. The illustrations are richly detailed and bring attention to design elements found in traditional Seminole objects and cloth. This book will serve as a wonderful addition to studies of the contributions Seminoles have made—and continue to make—and will also add to the growing number of biographies of women whose strong leadership has made a difference in the lives of many people.—Maggie Chase, Boise State University, ID
added by Everglades | editSchool Library Journal, Maggie Chase

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
J.G. Anninoprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Desimini, LisaIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jumper, MosesAfterwordsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Book description
She Sang Promise is the compelling and inspiring story of Betty Mae Tiger Jumper, one of modern America’s first female elected tribal leader. With its lyrical, poetic text, and rich, vibrant illustration, this is a book to charm and amaze young readers.
Betty Mae Tiger Jumper was born in 1923, the daughter of a Seminole woman and a white man. She grew up in the Everglades under dark clouds of distrust among her tribe who could not accept her at first. As a child of a mixed marriage, she walked the line as a constant outsider. Growing up poor and isolated, she only discovered the joys of reading and writing at age 14. An iron will and sheer determination lead her to success, and she returned to her people as a qualified nurse. When her husband was too sick to go to his alligator wrestling tourist job, gutsy Betty Mae climbed right into the alligator pit! Storyteller, journalist, and community activist, Betty Mae Jumper was a voice for her people—ultimately becoming the first female elected Seminole tribal leader.
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Traces the life and achievements of one of modern America's first female elected tribal leaders, describing her half-Seminole heritage, her determination to acquire an education and her contributions as a community activist.

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