CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 12 . . . . February 2, 2007
Meshom and The Little One.
Elaine J. Wagner. Illustrated by Marie-Micheline Hamelin.
Penticton, BC: Theytus Books, 2006.
56 pp., cloth, $14.95.
Ojibwa Indians-Juvenile fiction.
Kindergarten-grade 3 / Ages 5-8.
Review by Gregory Bryan.
“This gift is as unique as you, my granddaughter. The Little Ones are mischievous but good. They watch over us and protect us. They are seen only if they want to be seen. They are little tricksters. They like to have fun and play jokes on us while teaching us to be alert.”
In Elaine Wagner’s Meshom and the Little One, after moving to the West Coast, young Shawna misses her Manitoba life. Above all else, she misses her grandparents.
Fortunately, her Meshom and Kokum—her grandfather and grandmother—are able to join Shawna to celebrate her tenth birthday. Meshom brings with him a gift wrapped inside a burlap sack. “What is it?” Shawna laughs. “This gift I give you means a lot to me as an Ojibwa person,” Meshom responds, “If you follow my instructions after opening the sack, I hope it will mean a lot to you because you too are Ojibwa.”
Inside the sack is a plaster figurine—a Ka-agashinshidig, an Ojibwa Little One. As Shawna carefully paints the Little One, her bond with her Meshom grows stronger, even in Meshom’s absence.
Wagner’s writing is occasionally slowed by superfluous details, and Marie-Micheline Hamelin’s artwork is of inconsistent quality. The mice and cats subtext to the illustrations adds little and is potentially distracting. Despite these problems, the story and illustrations do have a sweet simplicity about them and, of course, tell an important tale about valuing one’s familial and cultural links.
Hamelin’s bright illustrations were created using a mixture of watercolor, coloured markers and acrylic on paper. Her outdoor scenes are better than her character depictions, but throughout, inside and out, she lavishes the page with colour.
While there is much to like about Meshom and the Little One, I retain reservations about the quality of some of the artwork and some of the writing.
Recommended with reservations.
Gregory Bryan is a member of the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB, where he teaches children’s literature and literacy education courses.
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