________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 11 . . . . January 23, 2009

cover The Drum Calls Softly.

David Bouchard & Shelley Willier. Illustrated by Jim Poitras. Singing and drumming by Northern Cree Singers.
Calgary, AB: Red Deer Press, 2008.
32 pp., includes CD, hardcover, $24.95.
ISBN 978-0-88995-421-2.

Subject Headings:
Cree dance-Juvenile fiction.
Cree Indians-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 1-3 / Ages 6-8.

Review by Helen Norrie.

*** /4


Step into the outer circle/ Listen to the beating drum.
Take my hand and hold it tight/ The thing you seek is soon to come.
Everybody's smiling because/ Our hearts all beat as one.
Listen to the drum — it calls/ The magic's here — it has begun.

So begins David Bouchard's latest picture book focusing on a spiritual journey. The unnamed participant in the journey takes part in the traditional drum dance and then gathers by the waters of a creek with the elders. The creek tells of lives being born and of lives being laid to rest. The seeker drinks of the water and feels refreshed. The drum dance continues throughout a whole day and night. When it is finished, "You are now family; you're a part of me." The seeker emerges from his spiritual journey as he hears, "Come back my friend. You're not the same."

internal art

     Every page has text in both English and Cree. The Drum Calls Softly could be a powerful book for Aboriginal students; however, the message seems somewhat obscure. Does the seeker find meaning through the waters of the creek? From the sound of the drums and the dancing? Or simply by being part of the dancing circle for a full 24 hours?

     The illustrations in this book by Native American painter Jim Poitras are exceptional, and one of the best parts of the book. They are full page, sometimes double page, and in earth tones but colourful. Some of the pages have ghost-like silhouettes of native warriors or dancers against the backdrop of fields or sky.

     A CD is included with music and drumming by Northern Cree. This could be used as an introduction to the book in the classroom or assembly hall.

     David Bouchard lives in Victoria, BC. His books, including If You're Not from the Prairie… and Nokum is My Teacher, have garnered many awards, including the Governor General's Award in 2004 for The Song Within my Heart.

     This picture book is also available in French, entitled Entre dans la grande ronde.


Helen Norrie is a former teacher-librarian who has taught at the children’s literature at the University of Manitoba.

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.