________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 13 . . . . February 22, 2008

cover

Ekwò Dozhìì Wegondi = The Legend of the Caribou Boy.

John Blondin. As told by George Blondin. Illustrated by Ray McSwain. Translated by Mary Rose Sundberg.
Penticton, BC: Theytus Books, 2007.
40 pp. (includes CD), hardcover, $24.95.
ISBN 978-1-894778-48-0.

Subject Headings:
Dogrib Indians-Folklore.
Caribou-Folklore.
Dogrib language-Readers.

Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 3-8.

Review by Gregory Bryan.

*** /4

excerpt:

The little boy woke up after his family had gone to sleep, put on his winter clothes and walked out into the night.

In the morning, after realizing he was gone, the little boy's family went out after him. The grandfather could tell what time the little boy had left and was able to read nature like a book, so he knew they would have to hurry to catch the boy.

The Legend of the Caribou Boy is the retelling of a traditional First Nation Dogrib tale about a young boy who leaves his family because of the irresistible attraction the boy feels toward a herd of Caribou. Each page features alluring illustrations. The text is presented in both English and the Dogrib language. Given the title of the book, the English and Dogrib texts appropriately are separated by the insertion of a stylized caribou hoof print.

     The publisher, Theytus Books, has drawn upon the talents of many individuals in order to share this story with a wider audience. The deceased author, John Blondin, heard the story from his father, the respected Elder, George Blondin. Ray McSwain provided the illustrations for the book. Mary Rose Sundberg translated the English language text into the Dogrib language. An interactive CD accompanies the book. Mary Rose Sundberg reads the text in Dogrib while Dianne Lafferty provides the English narration. The project represents a meeting of the minds and a sharing of talents, and, together, these and other individuals have contributed to a project worthy of pride.

internal art

     Some interesting foreword information is provided on the initial pages of the book where we learn about the inspiration of the project. The project was borne of recognition of the need for more literature portraying Dogrib culture and language. George Blondin also informs us that he feared the loss of his People's traditional stories.

     At book's end, there is a four-page Dogrib orthography and pronunciation guide. This information is, no doubt, of potentially profound educative potential. A reader, however, need not concern him or herself with the supplementary material and need not be distracted from the simple enjoyment of the English text and the evocative accompanying images.

     Although sparse on details, there is an almost majestic simplicity to the English text. This simplicity is reflected in many of the human forms in the illustrations. For me, the human forms are not individually as appealing as the artwork as a whole. Viewed as a whole, the illustrations are deeply attractive. The contrasts against the blue or brown backgrounds are striking. Indeed, the various shades of blue that dominate most of the illustrations are mesmerizing. I found they induced an almost dreamlike feel, perfectly in harmony with the tale relayed in the text. The artist, Ray McSwain, is clearly someone who knows how to work with colour and to make colour work for him.

     My favourite images from the book are the ones that include the northern lights in starlit skies. In the middle ground, there are shadowy caribou shapes inhabiting that shared space between the dream world and the real world. The illustrations were rendered in mixed media, including a combination of watercolour and acrylic on paper amalgamated with some computer generated graphic designs.

     Theytus Books' willingness to share First Nation culture with a wider audience is admirable. This is an enjoyable book conveying a simple but engaging story. The Legend of the Caribou Boy will intrigue young children and appeal to older readers with an interest in First Nation legends.

Recommended.

Gregory Bryan teaches children's literature classes in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg.

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

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.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.
 

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