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Leowen, Iris
Illustrated by Gloria Miller
Winnipeg, Pemmican Publications, 1993.
32pp, paper, $7.95, ISBN 0-921827-36 -9. CIP

Subject Headings:
Cree Indians-Fiction.

Kindergarten-grade 3 / Ages 5-8

Reviewed by Patricia Fry

Volume 22 Number 1
1994 January / February

When a young native girl living in the city gets a phone call from her grandmother inviting her and her mother to visit the reserve for the weekend, she knows she's in for a treat. This time, the special event is a round dance, but she remembers all the other characteristics of her Kokum, the Cree word for grandmother, that make spending time with this elder so memorable.

On previous visits, she has found and learned about the healing aspects of plants, as well as enjoyed the traditional intergenerational activity of baking--in this case, home-made bannock topped with wild-berry jam. Like grandchildren everywhere, she responds to the special treatment and love she receives from her grandmother. Their relationship gives the reader information about life among native people, especially those living on a reserve.

The soft pastel illustrations by Gloria Miller are featured on every page. Their careful attention to details gives depth and focus to the meaning hinted at by the text. For example, the mundane aspects of city life are evoked by a bus set against a background of concrete, cars and stores. This scene is in sharp contrast to the drawing on the next page about life on the reserve: grandma hanging the wash on the clothesline against a background of windy, open spaces with her pet dogs frisking about her feet. Specific memories, such as being greeted by Kokum, are drawn in blue and white and then superimposed over the colourful pastel drawing of the present reality--in this example, packing for the upcoming visit.

Like  M y Mom is so Unusual, Loewen's first book about life for a native child living with a single mother, this book underlines the important role of native women in linking families often widely dispersed across the prairies in r eserves, towns and cities. Women pass on the language, culture an values so vital to the nurturing of young native children.

The balance between text and illustrations makes this a good choice for a read-aloud story at the Primary level. Also, all children can identify with a special relationship between a grandparent and grandchild

Patricia Fry is a teacher-librarian with the Peel Board of Education in Mississauga, Ontario

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