A FRIEND CALLED "CHUM"
Bernelda Wheeler. Illustrated by Andy Stout.
Bernelda Wheeler. Illustrated by Herman Bekkering.
Volume 13 Number 6
Both of these books by Bernelda Wheeler, a native writer and broadcaster, were written at a Native Writers' Workshop sponsored by the native education branch of Education Manitoba. Both have large, easy-to-read print and black-and-white, charcoal-style sketches on every page. The illustrations confirm that the stories are about native children.In as many ways as these books are alike so are they different, and it is the differences that make I Can't Have Bannock But the Beaver Has a Dam a much better book than A Friend Called Chum. The most noticeable difference is in the illustration. Herman Bekkering's illustrations in the former book capture the flavour of the story and the emotions of the main character more accurately than do those of Andy Stout, whose drawings lack a consistency that is vital in a book intended for small children. However, the measurable differences between the two books are not limited to illustration. A Friend Called Chum is written as a poem, and unfortunately it is not a very good poem. Poetry for children that is meant to rhyme should do just that. It should not be merely close. Pairings like "cried" and "child," "bus" and "rush," bespeak writing that was either done too quickly or badly edited, or both. To attract children, the story begins with a theme with which all can identify. Waking up late and a resultant crabby mood cause a little girl to treat her dog badly, but in the end the tale deteriorates into a dream in which the dog saves the girl's life and so makes her feel sorry for what she did to him that morning. (Saving a life seems like a pretty big effort to make just to convince someone that she was unfair, but that simply adds to other notes in the book that do not ring true.) Some children may like this book but it is not nearly as well done as Wheeler's other effort. I Can't Have Bannock But the Beaver Has a Dam is written in prose. It begins with a little boy asking his mother if he can have some bannock. She says no and tells him why. As for all little boys, mother's answer only offers material for another question. So the book's story is built on this question-answer exchange between the two. Each time the mother answers, she gives all of the information in the previous answer plus a new piece of information, so we see the picture expanding for the boy. The book would be a good teaching tool for the elementary teacher, especially for those in native and northern communities where bannock and power failures are a part of everyday life. It is recommended for all elementary school libraries.
Sharon A. McLennan McCue, James Bay Eeyou School, James Bay, PQ.
1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995
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