________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 10 . . . . January 11, 2008


A Journey Through the Circle of Life.

Desirée Gillespie. Illustrated by Kimberly McKay-Fleming.
Winnipeg, MB: Pemmican Publications, 2007.
32 pp., stapled pbk., $10.95.
ISBN 978-1-894717-45-8.

Subject Heading:
Métis-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 1-3 / Ages 6-8.

Review by Jeannette Timmerman.

*** /4


Pépère could see her sadness. He told Cheyenne that it was normal for her to feel sad. He told her that some day he would be leaving them to join Mother Earth and continue on in the circle of life.



Desirée Gillespie grew up in the culture of a traditional Metis family that influenced her values and beliefs. She wrote A Journey Through the Circle of Life to help children understand and handle death. The story is simply told in language children will understand easily. Each year, Cheyenne and her grandfather plant a tree in their tradition of honoring nature and participating in the circle of life. While planting the trees, she and her grandfather have long talks. He shows her the wonders around them and explains to her that Mother Earth needs their care so future generations can enjoy the earth. On each visit to the farm, Cheyenne notices how much the trees have grown. She is sad when she finds broken branches. As she grows up, her grandfather starts to decline. He explains his death is part of the circle of life – living, dying, returning to Mother Earth, and continuing the circle of life. He says her sadness at seeing him weaken is normal, and his approaching death is part of the circle. He tells her to carry on planting a tree every year and to pass his teachings on to future generations in the family. After his death, Cheyenne cries a lot, has nightmares, and is very sad. One day, she runs out to one of the trees she and her grandfather had planted and hugs it while she calls out to her grandfather. The tree’s branches hug her back, and the leaves whisper that her grandfather is still with her as he is part of the trees they planted together. On subsequent visits, she sits by one of the trees and has long talks with her grandfather. These talks make her feel happy and safe again as she begins to understand the circle of life that her grandfather had told her about – his teachings live on.

internal art

     Fleming’s illustrations portray the loving relationship between Cheyenne and her grandfather. The pictures show farm details: a barn, fenced pastures, cows, horses, a farm cat, ducks and ducklings, and a hen and chicks. Details found in nature also abound: chipmunks, squirrels, birds, butterflies, trees, flowers, grass. The drawings blend these elements together into interesting pictures to discuss with readers. The colours are soft; the people slightly stylized. At the beginning of the book, there is a circle with illustrations of a tree in the four seasons of the year – the circle of life. Behind the words on the right-hand pages, Fleming has painted a faint yellow circle with flames. To emphasize the teaching of looking after Mother Earth, not only do we see Cheyenne and her grandfather plant trees which grow in size throughout the story, but also we see Cheyenne and her grandfather picking up litter left by unthinking people along the roadside next to the farm. A distraction for readers is the use of different font types and colours in the text. The book would fit well into a unit on families, the environment, or Metis studies.


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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