________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 38 . . . . June 5, 2015


Emma's Gift.

Deborah L. Delaronde. Illustrated by Jay Odjick.
Neyaashiinigmiing, ON: Kegedonce Press, 2015.
32 pp., pbk., $16.00.
ISBN 978-0-9868740-9-3.

Grades 2-5 / Ages 7-10.

Review by Ellen Heaney.

** /4


The past few decades have seen a real rise in publishing of books from First Nations companies such as Pemmican Press, Theytus Books, and the producer of this volume, Kegedonce Press. The trend is important both in reinforcing cultural identity for readers of First Nations backgrounds and for informing others of First Nations traditions and ways of life.

internal art      Deborah Delaronde is a retired children's librarian of Métis ancestry. She uses the reminiscences of an 80-year-old elder she met to outline how King's Day or Epiphany (6 January) has been celebrated since its introduction in Canada by Jesuit missionaries.

      Emma, who appears to be about 12-years-old, is interested in all the work that family members are engaged in to prepare for King's Day.

Dad took the mullets from the box and began to fillet them.

Emma knew that when he was done, it would be her turn to wash and then grind the fillets so that her Mom could fry fish patties to feed their King's Day visitors. Emma watched him work until she heard the jingle of bells from another horse.

Dad was busy so she greeted Mr. Flett.

"Is your grandmother home?" he asked.

"She's been waiting for you," Emma replied. "She was worried that she wouldn't have enough wood when she started cooking her King's Day meal."

Grandma always sewed and beaded mukluks for Mr. Flett as a King's Day gift.

      The days are a round of food gathering and the completion of gifts of boots and mittens. And when Grandma sprains her ankle, Emma, who has been feeling that she is not making much of a contribution to the event, pitches in to prepare the moose stew.

The moose stew was simmering in a thick gravy sauce when there was a knock on the door. Mr. Flett was Grandma's first King's Day visitor. Emma gave him a beautiful pair of mukluks. He had kept Grandma's wood stove burning all winter so he didn't need to give anything in return, but he did.

"A brand new water dipper!" Grandma said.

"Yours was looking pretty dented," he said, as he shook hands with Grandma.

Emma then realized that shaking hands while exchanging gifts was a King's Day custom.

      Emma's gift from Grandma is a star blanket quilt in recognition of her work. The last spread shows the family admiring the quilt. Emma wraps up the narrative in a most unsubtle way by saying:

"I think I know what you meant about there being more to King's Day... It's not only about giving gifts or listening to stories. It's about helping family and friends by giving your time."

      With their darkly-outlined figures and uncluttered backgrounds, Odjick's illustrations owe a lot to comic book and film art. The people are full of life, if sometimes a touch awkward or exaggerated.

      Emma's Gift is as much a vehicle for explaining traditional food-gathering, cooking and hand-crafting as it is a story with plot and fully-fledged characters. Not a literary tour-de-force, but useful for collections where First Nations material is needed.

Recommended with Reservations.

Ellen Heaney, a retired children's librarian, lives in Coquitlam, 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.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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