CM . . .
. Volume XX Number 40. . . .June 13, 2014
The story of the young girl, Pisim, is a fictionalized account that had its genesis in the discovery of the remains of a young Cree woman at Nagami Bay, South Indian Lake, Manitoba in 1993. In recreating and interpreting a week of the life of this young woman in the mid-1600s, author William Dumas, a Cree Elder, and illustrator Leonard Paul, Mi’kmaq, effectively bring to life the people and setting of that time. The fictionalized narrative is supplemented with illuminating sidebars on Cree language, culture, history as well as the maps and information on the travel routes undertaken by the various characters to the Spring Gathering during the time frame of the story. Source notes and background for the project are provided in the “Introduction” and in the large listing of contributors provided along with the publication information following the glossary.
The advent of the arrival of the storyteller sets the tone of the story as well as the beginning of the physical and psychological journey for the 13-year-old Pisim who is wondering if becoming a midwife is the correct path for her to follow. Her family packs up their belongings to follow the annual series of journeys to the Spring Gathering. As the days and adventures pass, more and more canoes join the convoy, bringing more stories, songs and laughter to the families. The trip is not without danger, however, as Pisim and her younger brother are caught in a severe rain storm while paddling on the river. Safely reaching shore propels her into another adventure when her aunt goes into labour. Without the benefit of her midwife teacher, Pisim successfully delivers the baby and understands that her proposed path is indeed the one that she should follow. The episodic story offers background information, excitement and adventure and is warm and satisfying. This reviewer, however, found the supplementary material to overshadow the story but appreciated the total package. Evocative landscapes and portraits bathed in washes of golds, browns and greens splash over the pages in various sizes and shapes, contributing to the reader’s insight and understanding of the historical era and setting.
Pisim Finds Her Miskanow is a must addition for all collections of First Nations material in elementary, middle school and junior high libraries as well as public libraries.
Gail de Vos teaches at the School of Library and Information Studies for the University of Alberta and San Jose State University. She is the author of nine books on storytelling and folklore.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.