CM . . .
. Volume XI Number 2 . . . . September 17, 2004
Written in both English and Cree, Fox on the Ice is the third, bilingual picture book in Tomson Highway's "Songs of the North Wind" trilogy. The story, based on another anecdote from Tomson's own northern Manitoba childhood memories, finds Cree brothers Joe and Cody back again, along with the rest of their family - Mama and Papa and Cody's dog Ootsie. In keeping with the first two books, the season, adventure, and featured animal have once more changed. This time it is a perfect, sparkling, winter afternoon for ice fishing and a picnic. After lunch, Papa and Cody set off for the second hole in the ice to catch the net pulled by the jigger. At the same moment, the sled dogs are startled by the appearance of a fox on the other side of the lake. They take off after it, dragging a half-asleep Joe and Mama on a wild, sound-charged ride behind them. Papa risks losing his jigger and net when he races after Mama and Joe. Fortunately, Ootsie comes to the rescue by clamping his teeth on the net - saving the day! The story ends with the harmonious sounds of Joe and Cody happily running to Ootsie laughing and laughing.
This is a simple, joyful family story of survival in the fierce but beautiful far north, as a First Nations family goes about its everyday life in what has rapidly become a long-ago world. Highway's storytelling is both a means of celebrating and preserving a language and memories of family and a culture he wants to see endure.
The music and dance of the story are beautifully complemented by Governor-General's Award nominee Brian Deines' shimmering oil paintings. Deines' human and animal portraits energetically enact the story details against a luminous, richly-coloured and softly-textured impressionistic, northern landscape.
Wayne Serebrin teaches language and literacy at the Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba.
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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.