CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 26. . . . March 9, 2018
Jan Bourdeau Waboose’s visually stunning picture book The Spirit Trackers introduces young readers to the story of the Windigo and the importance of ‘trackers’ in Anishinabe culture. Tom and Will are cousins who listen to their uncle’s stories about the Windigo, a spirit that is to be both feared and respected. They soon find themselves tracking a mysterious presence through the woods. What they find isn’t the Windigo, but a creature in need of the help of these young Trackers.
One of the standout elements in this book was the dialogue, in particular the respectful way that Tom and Will address not only their elder, but each other. Their words are simple and clear, but there is a subtlety to the writing here that will make young readers read between the lines- what are they saying, but more importantly, what do they actually mean? Waboose manages to leave room for interpretation without leaving room for confusion.
The colour scheme in The Spirit Trackers is winter all the way through, with cool blues and browns that reflect a sort of earthy calm. The most interesting thing about the illustrations is the subtle shifts and “pops” of colour on some pages that highlight certain pieces of the picture. Thisdale’s work is truly captivating. The added touch of the hidden tracks in each illustration creates a lovely interaction between the reader and the story. The font size is a bit large at times as it sometimes covers up more of the illustration than is necessary, but overall the amount of text on each page would be well-suited for an early to middle elementary reader.
Rather than simply sharing the story of the Windigo, The Spirit Trackers shares the spirit of the myth. Any title that so clearly and respectfully introduces pieces of Indigenous culture to young readers should be added to both school and public library collections.
Allison Giggey is a teacher-librarian and a mother of two in Prince Edward Island. She is not brave like Tom and Will and would have stayed in bed after seeing a huge black shadow outside her window.