________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 1. . . .September 4, 2015


P’ésk’a and the First Salmon Ceremony.

Scot Ritchie.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, 2015.
32 pp., hardcover & pdf, $18.95 (hc.), $16.95 (pdf).
ISBN 978-1-55498-718-4 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-55498-719-1 (pdf).

Subject Headings:
Chehalis Indians-Social life and customs-Juvenile literature.
Chehalis Indians-Fishing-Juvenile literature.
Salmon fishing-Juvenile literature.

Kindergarten-Grade 3 / Ages 5-8.

Review by Ellen Heaney.

*** /4



Scot Ritchie, a Vancouver-based artist, has many children’s books to his credit. Most of them are nonfiction titles written by other authors and range from the poetry of Robert Heidbreder to a number of Kids Can science titles. This book is an informational picture book, and it is all Ritchie’s own. P’ésk’a and the First Salmon Ceremony narrates an event in the life of a young Sts’ailes (Chehalis) boy. Readers know from the map on the endpapers that the events all took place on the Harrison River in British Columbia about a thousand years ago.

      Ritchie explains a real cultural tradition as seen through the eyes of a boy who wakes up in a nearly-deserted communal house and realizes that the special tray needed for the salmon ceremony has been left behind. As P’ésk’a hurries through the settlement with the tray, readers have the opportunity to observe preparations for this special day and to find out about the traditional materials and objects depicted. For example:

These men have cut down a cedar tree to make a canoe.

First the trunk is hollowed out. Then, hot rocks and boiling

water are placed inside, and the trunk is steamed over the

fire to change its shape.

P’ésk’a is going to make his own canoe when he is older.

     Happily, the boy’s errand is successful, and, when the community’s feast is over, the tray is put to use.

The people have finished eating, and they put the salmon

bones on the ceremonial tray. The chief leads the procession.

With a splash, he returns the salmon bones to the river.

Everybody thanks the river for the sth’óqwi – the greatest gift.

internal art     Pictures in Ritchie’s signature clear colours show adults and children in action on every quarter of the page, sometimes obscured by atmospheric curls of wood smoke. The detailed spreads are a delight for the eye. Especially effective are scenes where the importance of the river, alive with boats and fishers, is evident.

      Two pages of explanatory material, a glossary and a complimentary letter from Chief William Charlie of the Sts’ailes People make it clear that Ritchie has meticulously researched the material included here. The combination of lively pictures and informative text makes this a winner for primary collections in school and public libraries.


Ellen Heaney is a retired children’s librarian living 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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