________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 7 . . . . November 23, 2007


I Am Raven: A Story of Discovery.

David Bouchard. Illustrated by Andy Everson.
North Vancouver, BC: More Than Words, 2007.
32 pp., hardcover, $19.95.
ISBN 978-0-9782107-1-7.

Subject Heading:

Grades 3-8 / Ages 8-13.

Review by Gregory Bryan.

**** /4


Some will tell you that your totem is something you were in a previous life or something you might become in the next. That might be true. Others will tell you that your totem is the source of your strengths and weaknesses. This I believe to be true. Understanding my totem helps me to understand myself. And when I come to know someone else’s totem, it helps me better understand that person.

One of the most exciting developments that I see in Canadian literature for children is the increase in the quantity and quality of books reflective of the First Nation element in Canada’s multiracial make-up. I Am Raven represents another chapter in the Canadian children’s literature depiction of the First Nation experience in Canada. What’s more, however, is that the text is so well written and the illustrations so well crafted that I Am Raven is not presented in any sort of an exclusionary manner. Rather, the notion of totems and “animal spirit guardians” is presented as an idea for everyone, regardless of their cultural identity.

     The author, David Bouchard, is Métis, and the illustrator, Andy Everson, has K'omoks and Kwakwaka’wakw First Nations ancestry. The author and illustrator’s evident pride in their ancestry contributes to a powerful, engaging, fascinating and, simply, lovely book for readers young and old.

     Bouchard’s evocative text relates a story told to the book’s narrator by his grandmother. A great, kind and wise chief decides to erect a new totem pole. Knowing that he will soon die, the chief wants the pole to be representative of him but also to reflect the importance of others in his life. A series of birds and animals then try to convince the chief that their image should be carved into the chief’s totem pole.

internal art

     As beautiful and lyrically poetic as Bouchard’s text is, Everson’s alluring illustrations threaten, almost, to steal the show. The intriguing mixture of realistic, photographic images with totemic depictions creates a series of very powerful images perhaps suggestive of the thin veil between this world and another, more spiritual, world. I also find the seamless mixture of realism and totemic depictions is suggestive of the all-inclusive, non-discriminatory approach that Bouchard and Everson seem to have taken when working on the book.

     I Am Raven is an exquisite book and will become a treasured addition to family book collections. It has been my experience that each time I open the book, I discover new details both in the text and the illustrations. Each time, I feel more and more charmed by the book. At less than $20, I Am Raven represents excellent value for money because I am confident that readers will, like me, return to this book over and over again.

Highly Recommended.

Gregory Bryan is a member of the University of Manitoba Faculty of Education where he teaches children’s literature courses.

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

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