Saturday Smackdown: MOSQUITOLAND by David Arnold


Once a week, editor Nicole Brinkley breaks down book trailers and explains whether they’re championship material or worth tossing in the trash. This week, she looks at the book trailer for Mosquitoland by David Arnold.

A personal pet peeve of mine in book trailers is when the video is interrupted for text you have to read. Yes, you’re appealing to a generation of readers – but the whole point of a trailer is to show things, not force me to read! There are plenty of places to showcase the praise your book gets. Interrupting the trailer to force viewers to read it just takes away from the trailer. You don’t need to read things in a movie trailer – you shouldn’t be reading things in a book trailer. It’s supposed to be a visual medium.

So Mosquitoland trailer, I understand what you’re trying to do, but this wasn’t the place for all that praise.

Mosquitoland, which came out in February, follows a girl named Mim Malone. After being dragged out to Mississippi with her father and her new stepmother, she learns her mother in Cleveland is sick and hops a bus to return home, ending up on adventure that will take her thousands of miles across the country. It’s garnered a lot of phrase across the board. For instance, USA Today called it “heartwarming, heartbreaking and hilarious.”

And the trailer, ignoring the copious amounts of text spread throughout, might not be too awful. The music is certainly catchy – definitely the best part of the trailer – and it’s nice to have Mim represented by somebody who obviously isn’t white.

But both book and trailer have come under criticism for its use of Native American war paint. It’s something that the general public seems to be oblivious to – USA Today’s review opens with calling Mosquitoland as a book “for anybody who ever needed to slap on some war paint to get through the day,” as if blatantly unaware of the stereotyping associated with war paint.

The Native American community, however, has taken note of the book and its less-than-respectful use of the war paint. Debbie Reese, a member of the Nambe Pueblo tribe and a Native American scholar, has talked about the book in multiple posts on her excellent blog American Indians In Children’s Literature.

In the first post, she breaks down the overall book and why the use of the war paint and Mim’s apparent Cherkoee heritage is problematic; in the second, she responds directly to David Arnold and explains how he “inadvertently” is “doing what generations of Native people have fought against for hundreds of years.”

As somebody without a Native American heritage, I trust Reese’s take on the war paint in this book. So I have to wonder – was that the best thing to feature in the trailer?

What do you think of the Mosquitoland trailer and its use of war paint? Sound off in the comments below!

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About Author

Nicole Brinkley

Nicole is the editor of YA Interrobang. She has short hair and loves dragons. The rest changes without notice. Follow her on Twitter at @nebrinkley or Tumblr at nebrinkley. Like her work? Leave her a tip.

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