CM . . .
. Volume XIV Number 17 . . . . April 18, 2008
The University of New Mexico Press published Linda Boyden’s book, Powwow’s Coming, and although there is no author/illustrator or publisher Canadian connection, the content of the book certainly is relevant to Canada. Boyden is a former schoolteacher who became frustrated by the absence of quality instructional materials useful in teaching about First Nation culture. As such, Boyden decided to create her own materials, and thus was born Powwow’s Coming.
Told in rhyming text and featuring lavish illustrations, the book is a simple, but attractive, depiction of a First Nation powwow. The sparse text sometimes seems stilted and occasionally loses rhythm, but mostly it maintains the appropriately energetic rhythm of a beating drum. This rhythm mirrors the book content and is reflective of Boyden’s creative talent.
The colourful cut paper collages are the strength of the book. Many of the papers used for the illustrations include corrugations and obvious fibres. Other papers are woven together. These elements add depth and texture to the artwork. Much of the paper also has a leathery appearance, suggestive of traditional dress. String and feathers are also included in the collages, adding further texture to the illustrations.
The illustrations are visually appealing. Boyden’s artwork includes strong use of colour, including a heavy reliance on red, yellow, black and white, which in some First Nation cultures are sacred colours reflective of the medicine wheel or the four directions. The circle motif also regularly reappears in the illustrations, further emphasizing the careful attention to detail contained in Boyden’s artwork.
For me, the most striking illustration is that of the feathered dancer in the middle of the arena circle. Another interesting illustration shows a grandmother reading to her grandchildren in preparation for the powwow. The book the woman is reading is none other than Powwow’s Coming — a fun, if shameless, piece of self-promotion that I enjoy.
The final page of the book contains additional information about powwows. Included on this page are several suggestions about powwow etiquette. The final page also includes an explanation of the rules for a couple of First Nation games.
Having had the good fortune to attend many powwows, I enjoyed the book. I was reminded of the multi-sensory treat that is a First Nation powwow. This book certainly suggests powwows are for men and women and for young and old. Throughout the book, people are depicted in a mixture of contemporary and traditional dress, ranging from jeans and t-shirts through to highly decorative dancing costumes. The book is itself a celebration—a celebration of powwow celebrations.
Gregory Bryan teaches children’s literature at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB.
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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.