On the Trapline by David A. Robertson

Cover image for On the Trapline.

On the Trapline by David A. Robertson, illustrated by Julie Flett (9780735266681)

A boy travels with his grandpa, Moshom, to his trapline up north. Moshom hasn’t returned to the trapline since he was a boy himself. The trapline is where people hunted animals and lived off the land, Moshom explains to his grandson. Once the small plane lands, the two meet one of Moshom’s old friends. They pull up to a small house near a big lake, but that is not the trapline. It’s where Moshom lived after they left the trapline. In the winter, everyone slept together in the room with the wood stove to keep warm. Moshom shows his grandson the ruins of the school he went to, where he was required to speak in English and not Cree. They head out on the water in a slow boat, until they finally reach the trapline. Moshom shows him where they trapped muskrats, where their tent was, and how they lived on the trapline. As they leave, the two of them can continue to envision the trapline as it is now and as it once was.

The Governor General Award winning team returns with a book about connection to the land, deep memories, family ties and generations sharing stories. The warm relationship between Moshom and his grandson, who narrates the book, is clear and central to the book. The grandson regularly asks whether this place is the trapline, until they reach the real trapline and it is clear. The book examines memories, both dark and happy, alongside physical discovery of the places. It’s a powerful look at experiences and connection.

As always, Flett’s illustrations are exceptional. Done in pastel and then manipulated digitally, they have a muted natural palette that works for both memories and current times. The greens are deep and rich, the blues offer clear skies and rich water.

A look at grandfathers, memories and the importance of place. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

We All Play by Julie Flett

We All Play by Julie Flett (9781771646079)

Children and animals both love to play. This picture book incorporates Cree words into the narrative. Animals play in the grass, hopping, sniffing, sneaking. They peek and peep. Children play too, leaping through the grass or laying down in it. Animals swim and so do children. Animals slide and rumble and wiggle, just like children sledding in the snow. Animals settle down, roosting and yawning, finally falling asleep. Children do too.

Told in very simple language, woven with Cree words, this picture book shows the connection the natural world and its value to children in particular. The Cree words repeat with the children themselves saying them, something that would be great to do in a story time when this book is shared. The illustrations show a diverse group of children playing outside, acting just like the animals. A glossary of Cree words is offered at the end of the book along with a list of the animals who appear on the pages.

A frolic of a picture book that speaks to the importance of outdoor play. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Greystone Kids.

Review: Awâsis And The World-Famous Bannock by Dallas Hunt

Awâsis And The World-Famous Bannock by Dallas Hunt

Awâsis And The World-Famous Bannock by Dallas Hunt, illustrated by Amanda Strong (9781553797791)

When Awâsis accidentally loses her grandmother’s world-famous bannock as she is taking them to a relative, she starts to cry. When a duck hears her crying, the duck offers to help and gives her some tohtosapopimehkan or butter. A rabbit in the woods offers her some flour or askipahkwesikan. As Awâsis walks on, more animals offer her ingredients to make the bannock again. Readers will see a bear lingering nearby and wonder about what he is up to. When Awâsis returns home to her grandmother, she is still missing one key ingredient for the perfect bannock. Who will provide it?

Hunt skillfully integrates Cree words into his tale about a Cree girl, her grandmother and the animals who help her. In the author’s note, he also mentions that the story celebrates traditional indigenous storytelling methods and readers will notice the strong structure of the story and the way it reads aloud beautifully. A pronunciation guide and glossary of Cree words is provided as well as the recipe for world-famous bannock. The illustrations have a lovely softness to them that invites readers into a forest filled with helpful animals.

A marvelous picture book celebrating the Cree language, storytelling and food. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Highwater Press.

Review: Wild Berries by Julie Flett

wild-berries

Wild Berries by Julie Flett

Clarence has gone berry picking with his grandmother since he was a baby.  Now he is big enough to carry his own bucket as they walk and sing.  The two of them pick the berries, Grandma looking for the sweet ones and Clarence for the bigger, sour ones that pop.  They pick the berries and eat the berries.  Then Clarence looks around the woods and sees different insects, spiders, and a fox.  It is time to go home, they say thank you and walk back home together.

This book weaves Cree into the story, separating the words out and providing pronunciation information at the end of the book.  Even these few Cree words evoke a different feeling, a new rhythm that is powerful.  Flett tells a very simple story here about going out to pick berries in the forest.  Yet it is a timeless story, one the embraces wildlife, the environment, and giving thanks for the bounty of nature. 

Flett’s art is a beautiful mix of cut paper collage, texture and painting.  She manages to show the depth of the woods without darkness.  She uses bright colors that pop on Grandma’s red skirt and the red sun in the sky.  The grass is drawn in individual blades and the tree bark varies from paper art to marker lines.  Put together, it is a rich and beautiful book.

Simple, powerful and honest, this picture book celebrates Cree and nature together.  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.