________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 29 . . . . April 7, 2017


Orca Chief.

Roy Henry Vickers & Robert Budd. Illustrated by Roy Henry Vickers.
Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publishing, 2015.
40 pp., hardcover & ebook, $19.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55017-693-3 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-55017-694-0 (ebook).

Subject Heading:
Legends-British Columbia-Juvenile literature.

Grades 2-8 / Ages 7-13.

Review by Anita Miettunen.

**** /4



In the old days, four men set out from Kitkatla to paddle to their food gathering place, known today as the Estevan Group. It was spring, the time to gather seaweed and fish for sockeye salmon.

      Set long ago, Orca Chief is the story of four men who leave their village in a canoe to harvest food from the ocean. At the end of the day, the men are tired and careless. They toss their heavy rock anchor into the sea without thought of where it might land. As it happens, it lands on the roof of the chief of all the orca whales. Orca Chief sends his helper, Ratfish, to investigate, but one of the men grabs him and pulls off his fins. When Ratfish returns and tells Orca Chief about the humans, Orca Chief becomes angry and sends two orcas to bring the men to his house:

So the two orca swam around and around and around and around, faster and faster and faster and faster, until they caused an enormous whirlpool that sucked the canoe right down down down…

      Orca Chief then questions the men:

"Why would you drop your anchor on my roof? You should act with more respect in this world."

      The men become frightened but also ask for forgiveness and a chance to learn to be more respectful. As Orca Chief is kind, he allows his best hunters to guide the men to help them better understand the beauty and rhythms of the ocean and to respect its resources. As the men learn about and watch other creatures in the undersea world, they also think about their own families waiting back in their village. Eventually, the men are returned to the surface, and they travel home with a fuller appreciation of life in the ocean. Along the way, as they gather seafood to take to their families, they are rewarded by full nets of sockeye for their village.

      Orca Chief was co-authored by acclaimed artist Roy Henry Vickers and historian Robert Budd and is another title in their successful "Northwest Coast Legends" series of books that include Raven Brings the Light, Cloudwalker (2014), and Peace Dancer. As Vickers explains in his "Author's Note", the book is based on a story from the northwest coast of British Columbia and passed down through his grandmother's side of the family for generations. Orca Chief is a powerful retelling of this story, notable for its lively pacing and vivid word choices. Vickers, who is a gifted printmaker, created almost entirely new illustrations for the book which further elevate the solid text:

Beyond, the men could see a pod of humpbacks working as a team, surrounding a school of herring. The whales swam in a circle and blew bubbles, keeping the thousands of fish together. As they swam around and around, the circle got smaller and the herring were forced closer together, into a shiny silver ball.

internal art      In most cases, each spread consists of short text on the left hand page with a full-page illustration on the right hand side. There is one spread that only includes text, but this effectively sets the reader up for what the four men are about to discover on their journey through the undersea world, and the full colour spread that follows allows the reader to pause and savour the intriguing shapes and sizes of all the marvelous creatures found in the ocean.

      Vickers does not shy away from using a variety of colours in his silkscreen prints that draw from his mixed heritage and experience and interpretation of Pacific Northwest First Nations art. Throughout the book, his choices vary from bright and bold to more subdued palettes, depending on the tone of the text. Yet each page is created intentionally, and the end result is a vibrant book that will appeal to a wide age range. A younger audience may simply enjoy the book for its bold images and exciting storyline while older readers can delve deeper into both the artwork and the story's implications of sustainability and environmental stewardship. Orca Chief also includes lovely design elements, such as colourful endpages and a few glossy spot illustrations featuring orcas that further add to the enjoyment of this book.

      Awards and Honours:
Shortlisted: Christie Harris Illustrated Children's Literature Prize -- BC Book Prize (2016)
Commended: Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Canadian Picture Book Award (2016)
Shortlisted: Bill Duthie Booksellers' Choice Award -- BC Book Prize (2016)

Highly Recommended.

Anita Miettunen is a writer based in Vancouver, BC. She is completing a Master of Arts in Children's Literature at the University of British Columbia.

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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