CM . . .
. Volume XX Number 26. . . .March 7, 2014
The Lost Teachings = Panuijkatasikl Kina’masuti’l.
Michael James Isaac. Illustrated by Dozay (Arlene) Christmas. Translated by Yolanda Denny & Elizabeth Paul.
Halifax, NS: Roseway/Fernwood Publishing, 2013.
48 pp., pbk., $14.95.
Grades 2-5 / Ages 7-10.
Review by Rachel Yaroshuk.
Eagle swopped down and landed on a tree next to Wolf and said, ‘Who are you and what have you done to the animals of the forest?’ Wolf replied, “I am the keeper of Envy and Greed, and I have cast a spell on the animals.”
Listuguj First Nations author Michael James Isaac offers a beautiful rendition of the seven sacred teachings in The Lost Teachings. He offers this book as a guiding moral compass for living in harmony with nature, but it also doubles as a message of hope for reclaiming Aboriginal values from those who seek to oppress them.
In The Lost Teachings, Isaac retells the story of seven sacred teachings. The book begins with Eagle flying high in the sky when something catches his eye below. Swooping closer to investigate, Eagle finds a bundle tied with a golden string. Inside the bundle, a message reads: “‘Here are seven teachings that will bring balance, harmony, and peace for those who share and practise them,’ … At the end of the message there.. [i]s a warning: ‘Beware of Envy and Greed.’”
Eagle quickly flies to find forest friends to help him share these teachings. He shares Wisdom with Owl, Respect with Beaver, Love with Rabbit, Humility with Turtle, Honesty with Moose, Courage with Bear, and saves Truth for himself. In the process, Eagle forgets to share the warning.
Years pass, and all is well. One day, however, as Eagle is flying, a dark cloud passes below. When it is clear again, all of the forest animals are fighting. Eagle swoops down and meets Wolf, the keeper of Envy and Greed. Eagle, concerned with the state of the forest, shares the Truth of Envy and Greed with the forest animals until harmony is restored.
Having been a teacher for over six years, with a current position as a Mi’kmaq Liaison Office Student Services Consultant, Michael James Isaac tells his story in language that is clear and easy for children to understand. Charming notes of repetition bring a delightful rhythm and symmetry to the story.
Supporting the story, artist Dozay (Arlene) Christmas offers unique water colour-ink illustrations that embody a dream-like quality. The landscape scenes are stunning to behold, but the forest animals’ facial expressions could be more engaging and expressive for a child audience.
Isaac has clearly created this book with a purpose: “Looking to great Eagle, we can be reminded of the teachings, and know they are not lost, but are there for us to reclaim.” At the end of the story, Isaac provides questions for reflection on The Lost Teachings. He also seamlessly integrates the Mi’kmaw dual-language text component, offering a richer cultural reading experience. I only wish there was an audio CD component to accommodate the text and to share the beauty of the Mi’kmaw oral culture.
The Lost Teachings is a great medium to increase children’s exposure to Aboriginal world views.
Rachel Yaroshuk is an Auxiliary Librarian at North Vancouver District Public Library.
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