________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 21 . . . . June 8, 2007


Metis Spirits.

Deborah L. Delaronde.
Winnipeg, MB: Pemmican Publications, 2006.
106 pp., pbk., $14.95.
ISBN 978-1-894717-36-6.

Subject Heading:
Métis-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 3-5 / Ages 8-10.

Review by Jeannette Timmerman.

*** /4


Something that wasn't common knowledge among the Europeans was how to store pemmican so that it wouldn't spoil. The secret was to place pemmican in a raw buffalo hide and sew it up tightly with sinew.
Pemmican could be buried in the ground for two to three years and dug up ready to eat.

Metis Spirits is Delaronde's first book of short stories. She has written four children's picture books with a Metis focus and Friendship Bay, a book about friendship between a duck and three grebes. Delaronde works in Duck Bay School in Duck Bay, MB.

     There are six short stories in the book. Many of them have a time travel or ghost element to them. For example, in "The Voyageur's Symbol," while on a visit to an art gallery with a school class, two boys end up in a canoe inside a painting of voyageurs. They experience the landing, unloading and beginning of a portage. It turns out that the paintings on this art gallery tour were all done by the Metis great-grandfather of one of the boys.

     In "Steps in Time," the only story with a girl as the protagonist, Melissa has a vision of a woman in a white-fringed dress who turns out to be her great-grandmother. Melissa had been reluctant to jig at the Metis Assembly as the representative from her family. After seeing the vision and hearing the story about her ancestor from her mother, Melissa rehearses a jig. At the cultural assembly, she wears her great-grandmother's dress and jigs as though she were floating on air.

     "Between Two Worlds" tells the story of a family that is visited by ghosts after the mother dies. The last ghost is a Metis who died in his early twenties after being mauled by a bear. He had been a voyageur, trapper and gold prospector. He leads the two boys to a cave where his journal and cache of gold have been hidden for two hundred years. He then translates his French-written journal for the boys' father who is a writer. The father uses the information in the journal as inspiration for a book.

     Through her stories, Delaronde presents information about the Metis culture and history, and the Metis contributions to the development of Canada.

     The editing of the book could be crisper in places. A missing word, misplaced modifying phrases, and overuse of some words (e.g. "hard" is  used three times in a three-sentence paragraph) slow the flow of the  reading at times. Sometimes there is a jump in information without the needed segue.

     The Vocabulary Builders section at the end of the book explains 14 words to do with Metis life that are found in the stories. In some instances, the words have been explained in the context of the stories, but it is useful to be able to look them up quickly in this section.

     Kathy McGill, who illustrated the covers with an acrylic painting, is an artist living in rural Manitoba. The painting incorporates a present-day Metis boy, a Metis boy fiddler dressed in traditional clothing, a Red River cart, a canoe, a buffalo and beavers.


Jeannette Timmerman is a former teacher, consultant and administrator in the Winnipeg (MB) School Division.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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ISSN 1201-9364
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