CM . . .
. Volume XI Number 5 . . . . October 29, 2004
An Ojibway boy hears the call of the Loon. He knows it is the bird of Indian legends.
He hears the Loon's cry again. He sits down beside the rippling water and stares into it.
He remembers the story of long ago - a place where only the Elders go, Moon Lake Loon Lake.
During the distant time, in a distant forest, lies a remote northern lake where only the Elders go, Moon Lake Loon Lake.
The moon radiates light, and the stars glow in the calm still night.
The moon casts night shadows onto the dark, glassy water of the majestic birds where only the Elders go, Moon Lake Loon Lake.
Tall ancient trees entwine their branches sheltering the sacred place.
Except for the soft dipping of a wing rippling the water, it is tranquil.
It is a peaceful, restful place where only the Elders go, Moon Lake Loon Lake.
In the introduction to Where Only the Elders Go, the reader is told that this is a the story of a boy who hears the call of the loon, a sound which reminds him of stories of Mishomis or "Grandfather." In the story-within-a-story, Mishomis sits down to reflect on his life. It is a time "to think, a time to listen, a time to remember." He sees himself as a boy, then as a man, and finally as a man who has passed through time, who has learned wisdom, who has practiced wisdom and shared his wisdom well. It is now time for him to leave it behind and move on, just as the loon leaves her offspring when they have learned all that she can give.
With this straightforwardness and simplicity, award-winning author Jan Bourdeau Waboose passes on the wisdom of her Native heritage, and she, too, shares her wisdom well via the story of the cycle of life in a understated wisdom utilizing a lyrical text that lulls the reader, just as waves upon the shore of the mythical lake.
As the Elder prepares to leave the physical world, he is surrounded by nature and feels life all around him. He looks up to see a swoosh of wings and feathers while the sound of the loon is "a mellow song in the Elder's ears. It whispers like a dream. The Elder lies down and closes his eyes. He lets his spirit go, peacefully. Where only the Elders go, Moon Lake Loon Lake." This is not a raging against the light, but a peaceful surrender that is all the more moving because of the implicit acceptance.
Halina Below's soft-focus watercolours complement the story beautifully. While the illustrations of the young boy dance with vibrant rainbow colours, those telling the Elder's story are in soft blues and greens that have a timelessness quality about them. Her portrait of Mishomis is particularly captivating as Mishomis seems to gaze directly at the reader with meaning and wisdom in his expression.
This is the second edition, the first having been published in a different format in 1994. Where Only the Elders Go is a Canadian Children's Book Centre Choice and with good reason. It is beautiful and wise.
Liz Greenaway has worked in bookselling and publishing and lives in Edmonton, AB.
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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.
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.