________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 33 . . . . May 1, 2015


Arts and Crafts. (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 978-1-4872-0192-0 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4872-0191-3 (RLB), ISBN 978-1-4872-0193-7 (multi-user eBook).

Subject Headings:
Native arts-Canada-Juvenile literature.
Native peoples-Canada-Social life and customs-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Rachel Yaroshuk.

*** /4



The Blackfoot used art to record their history. Pictographs are images the Blackfoot carved into rock. These images often recorded a great battle, important hunt, or large ceremony. Each year, important events were recorded on bison hide. This was called a winter count. A person called the recorder selected the symbol or image to be painted on the hide.

      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.

      The Arts and Crafts title begins with a brief introduction on First Nations arts and crafts and their importance in society. Arts and crafts express creativity, cultural values and ideas of traditional First Nations. Following the introduction, the book looks in depth at arts and craft practices from the perspective of the Algonquin, Blackfoot, Cree, Haida, Huron, Iroquois, Mi'kmaq, and Ojibwa.

      Each nation has a dedicated two paragraph description explaining how specific First Nations integrated arts and crafts into their daily life. Different First Nations environments shaped the variety of traditional arts and crafts known today. In addition to the paragraph details, there is a display of arts and craft artifacts on the adjacent page with a brief text description below. The arts and crafts explored range from basket weaving, face painting, bead work, winter counts, sculpture, totem poles, doll making, clay work, and petroglyphs.

      The pages are artistically represented with colour photographs and illustrations of current and historic First Nations arts and crafts. There are also photographs of modern First Nations engaging in traditional arts and crafts culture. On the adjacent page, artifacts are typically itemized in colour with a brief description.

      Arts and Crafts 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 winter count. Instructions on how create a winter count 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 arts and crafts, including Huron craftwork, Haida totem poles, and Cree arts and crafts. This book also includes an index for easy reference. Arts and Crafts 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 arts and crafts in the past tense, thereby giving the book an anthropologic feel and sidestepping recognition of current First Nations arts and craft 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 arts and crafts traditions. This series acts as an excellent classroom resource to guide children learning about the basics of First Nations arts and crafts.


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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