________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 9. . . .October 30, 2015


The First Flute : Whowhoahyahzo Tohkohya.

David Bouchard. Art by Don Oelze. Featuring the native flute of Jan Michael Looking Wolf. Dakota translation by Wayne Goodwill.
Markham, ON: Red Deer Press, 2015.
40 pp. (Includes CD), hardcover & Web PDF, $24.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-0-88995-475-5 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-55244-376-7 (PDF).

Preschool-grade 6 / Ages 4-11.

Review by Kristen Ferguson.

*** /4


Names are important.

Names should be respected. They should be valued. They should be honoured.


Award-winning Canadian author David Bouchard tells the story of Dancing Raven in the picture book, The First Flute. Dancing Raven is a gifted and talented dancer, but he is denied the hand of the woman he loves because her father wants her to marry a provider, not a dancer. In sadness, Dancing Raven runs to the forest where the large sacred tree, Grandfather Cedar, lives. After singing a prayer to Creator, a woodpecker hammers on a hollow branch of Grandfather Cedar. Then lightening brings the branch crashing down.

Dancing Raven quickly took his gift from Grandfather Cedar to a high ridge, raised it to his lips and imitated the song he had just heard . . . the song he had just been given.

     Dancing Raven then shares the music of the flute with the village, his love, and her father. He marries his love, and the story of first flute is shared far and wide.

     The First Flute is a bilingual book, told in both English and Dakota. Also included is a CD with the story told in English, French, and Dakota, along with the beautiful flute music of Jan Michael Looking Wolf. The illustrations by Don Oelze are stunning and add a detailed visual to the to the storytelling. Before the story, there is a section entitled “Protocol”. Bouchard explains that this version of the story was told by Standing Elk, the uncle of the flutist, Jan Michael Looking Wolf. Bouchard also outlines the proper protocol for storytelling.

     The First Flute makes a good addition for any collection. The inclusion of the CD makes The First Flute stand out as readers can also experience traditional storytelling and the evocative sounds of the flute music to accompany the book.


Dr. Kristen Ferguson teaches literacy education at the Schulich School of Education at Nipissing University in North Bay, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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