________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 30 . . . . April 10, 2015


Music and Dance. (First Nations).

Pamela McDowell.
Calgary, AB: Weigl Educational Publishers, 2015.
24 pp., pbk., hc. & & multi user eBook, $11.95 (pbk.), $23.95 (RLB), $34.95 (ebook).
ISBN 978-1-4872-0183-8 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4872-0182-1 (RLB), ISBN 978-1-4872-0184-5 (multi-user eBook).

Indians of North America-Music-Juvenile literature.
Indian dance-Canada-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Rachel Yaroshuk.

*** /4


Music is found in every culture. It is part of ceremonies, rituals, celebrations, and entertainment. When music is combined with dance, it becomes a way of passing stories down to new generations. Rhythm is important in both music and dance.


Weigl Educational Publishers’ Aboriginal nonfiction titles now include a series on First Nations culture, including Tools and Weapons, Arts and Crafts, Ceremonies and Celebrations, Clothing, and Music and Dance.

     Music and Dance begins with a brief introduction on First Nations relationship to music and dance as a way to tell stories, offer thanks, engage in competition, and perform sacred rituals. Following the introduction, the book looks in depth at music and dance practices from the perspective of the Algoniquin, Blackfoot, Cree, Haida, Huron, Iroquois, Mi’kmaq, and Ojibwa.

     Each nation has a dedicated two paragraph description explaining how specific First Nations created and incorporated instruments into song. Instruments range from drums, flutes and rattles to whistles. The book also includes information on various dances, dance costume, and dance inspiration. Many First Nations’ music and dances are inspired by nature and the changing seasons. Culturally significant dances are highlighted for each nation.

     The pages are artistically represented with colour photographs of current and historic First Nations people in traditional dance dress. The pictures and artifacts are typically itemized in colour on the adjacent page with a brief description.

     Music and Dance is presented in language that can be easily understood by children. The book does include First Nations terms with which children may not be familiar. These complex terms are explained in the “Key Words” section at the end of the book to ensure the text remains accessible to all readers.

     To complement the information presented, an activity section encourages readers to make their own version of an Iroquois rattle. Instructions on how create the rattle are well-suited for a classroom setting.

     Finally, there is a dedicated section to promote “What’s Online”. This section highlights reliable websites on First Nations drums, Iroquois instruments, and the Huron Stick Dance. This book also includes an index for easy reference. This is a fabulous resource to drawn on when teaching children how to engage with information texts.

     My only major concern with this title is the chosen verb tense used to communicate the content. Author Pamela McDowell often refers to First Nations music and dance in the past tense which gives the book an anthropological feel and sidesteps recognition of current First Nations music and dance practices and the revival of traditional practices.

     Despite this shortcoming, I would recommend this series for children age nine to twelve, both for school projects and general interest. I appreciate that McDowell took the time to single out specific First Nations music and dance traditions. This series acts as an excellent classroom resource to guide children learning about the basics of First Nations music and dance.


Rachel Yaroshuk is a Teen Librarian with Burnaby Public Library in Burnaby, BC.

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.
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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
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