CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 17. . . .January 8, 2010.
Lacey and the African Grandmothers. (A Kids’ Power Book).
Sue Farrell Holler.
Toronto, ON: Second Story Press, 2009.
164 pp., pbk., $14.95.
Siksika Indians-Juvenile fiction.
Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign-Juvenile fiction.
Grades 4-8 / Ages 9-13.
Review by Marilynne V. Black.
In total, there are more than seven thousand Blackfoot at Siksika First Nation, mostly kids. Siksika has three schools now, but I go to school outside of the reserve in a very small place called Gleichen. Gleichen has only about 450 people who stay there, but it has two schools. The best school, Sequoia, is an “outreach” school. It is for teenagers who have dropped out of school, sometimes because they have children of their own, My sister, Angel, goes to Sequoia .
When my school finishes, I usually head to Sequoia to look after the babies so the parents can study, although it’s really the parents’ responsibility to look after their kids, even when they’re at school. I love to look after babies, and I love being in the kitchen with Lila and watching her arms jiggle when she shapes dough into biscuits or stirs a pot of soup. I also like eating the things she makes and sampling ingredients when she isn’t looking. It’s better than being at home, where there is hardly ever any extra food. Eleven people live in my house if you count Angel’s baby, and eleven people eat a lot of food.
Lacey and the African Grandmothers attests to the possibility of one person, a young one at that, making a big impact on the world. Although the main character is fictional, the story is based on fact. It is “inspired by a remarkable young woman who was not afraid to use her talents to help others.” The story is told from the viewpoint of a 12-year-old Blackfoot girl, Lacey, who lives on a reserve in Alberta. The story documents her determination to help a group of African grandmothers who are struggling to raise their grandchildren orphaned by AIDS. When Lacey hears of The Steven Lewis Foundation’s Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign, she decides to use her sewing skills to raise money by making cloth purses which can be sold. With the help of many, Lacey, despite several setbacks, is successful. As a result, the visiting grandmothers from Africa come to her village where a celebration is held. Lacey is captivated by these ladies and their culture. “How strange it was, I thought, that African people and Siksika people would bead the same way, although they lived almost a whole world apart. We are different in where we stay, and how we look, but inside, I think we are the same.”
Sue Farrell Holler, the author, nicely balances different aspects of Lacey’s life. Throughout, Lacey remains a very normal young girl sorting through her feelings and concerns. On the other hand, Holler gives an honest account of some of the problems of living on a reserve – including teenage pregnancy. However, she also depicts the closeness of the community, Lacey’s caring, yet rambunctious family with “too many brothers” whom she obviously loves. In addition, traditional aspects of First Nations lives are highlighted. For instance, Holler includes the wisdom of the elders as personified by Kahasi, Lacey’s grandmother. Reverence for the old ways, through such traditional crafts as beading and making moccasins, is also documented.
Lacey and the African Grandmothers is one of the “Kid’s Power Book: series titles that includes Yeny and the Children for Peace and Maggie and the Chocolate War. It would make an excellent introduction to a study of children making the difference in the world, such as the ongoing work of Craig Kielburger.
Although the book has 164 pages, its length is not seen as overwhelming for the intended age range. In addition, the font is clear and slightly larger than normal and has sufficiently wide margins so that the text is not cramped. Except for the cover, there is no colour in Lacey and the African Grandmothers. Despite this absence of colour, it is not an unappealing book. Endpapers are decorated with the shapes of scissors, buttons, safety pins and other sewing paraphernalia. The top of each chapter displays a row of buttons, and a number of black and white photographs are sprinkled throughout. An Author’s Note, Preface, Glossary, Afterword, and a list of Resources round out the title.
Marilynne V. Black is a former B.C. elementary teacher-librarian who completed her Master of Arts in Children’s Literature (UBC) in the spring of 2005. She is now working as an independent children's literature consultant with a web site at www.heartofthestory.ca.
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