The First Blade of Sweetgrass by Suzanne Greenlaw and Gabriel Frey

Cover image for The First Blade of Sweetgrass.

The First Blade of Sweetgrass by Suzanne Greenlaw and Gabriel Frey, illustrated by Nancy Baker (9780884487609)

Musqon accompanies her grandmother to the salt marsh where they are going to pick sweetgrass. The salt marsh is where the river meets the ocean. Her grandmother explains that she helped her own grandmother pick sweetgrass as a girl to weave into baskets and use in ceremonies. To Musqon, all of the grasses look the same, so her grandmother shows her what to look for to find sweetgrass among all the other grasses. She explains that they never pick the first blade of sweetgrass that they see, to make sure that sweetgrass continues to the next generation. When her grandmother tells her that sweetgrass has a shiny green tassel and blades with a purple stem and that it is easy to pick, Musqon is confident she can find it on her own. It isn’t until Musqon takes her time, thinks about what she is there to do, and really sees the salt marsh that she can find sweetgrass herself.

Written by a citizen of the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians and a citizen of the Passamaquoddy Nation, this picture book is a gentle story of Native traditions shared with a new generation. The text of the book shares Passamaquoddy-Maliseet words in the dialogue of the characters. It takes the time, slowing us all down, to explain the importance of sweetgrass and how to find it. The moment when Musqon takes her own time and gives herself space is beautifully created.

Baker learned about sweetgrass for this book also the landscape in which it grows. She shows a delicacy with both in her illustrations, celebrating sweetgrass itself and also showing the beautiful landscape where the river meets the ocean.

A rich and vital look at sweetgrass and heritage. Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Tilbury House.

Ergo by Alexis Deacon

Cover image for Ergo.

Ergo by Alexis Deacon, illustrated by Viviane Schwarz (9781536217803)

This philosophical picture book explores one chick’s world. Ergo wakes up not realizing she is inside an egg and thinks that she has discovered her entire world. She has eyes to see, toes that wiggle, wings that flap, a beak to peck and legs that kick. Perhaps, she thinks, she is the world and she had found everything. That’s when she discovers the wall of the egg around her. She pushes the wall, rolls the egg over, and realizes that she can move the entire world! That’s when she feels the bumps coming from outside the egg and realizes that she is not the entire world. Now she must decide whether to leap (or peck) her way into the unknown or stay safe in her small universe of the egg.

Deacon and Schwarz follow I Am Henry Finch with this picture book that plays with Plato. The book works on multiple levels, allowing adults to recognize the philosophy while also really working well as a picture book for young children that asks big questions about our world and our place within the universe. The use of the little chick and an egg serve a clever purpose here. Ergo asks the big questions while the simple style of the writing supports the ideas being shared.

The illustrations are simple and bold. Done in a sunshine yellow, Ergo fills the page. Often surrounded by a cool blue-gray, the illustrations show Ergo and her world, egg-sized and then larger.

Clever and inquisitive, this book will egg on children’s thinking about the world. Appropriate for ages 2-6.

Reviewed from copy provided by Candlewick Press.