________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 22. . . .June 26, 2009


The Delta is My Home = Ehdiitat shanakat t'agoonch'uu Uvanga Nunatarmuitmi aimayuaqtunga. (The Land is Our Storybook).

Tom McLeod & Mindy Willett. Photographs by Tessa Macintosh.
Calgary, AB: Fifth House, 2008.
32 pp., hardcover, $16.95.
ISBN 978-1-897252-32-1.

Subject Headings:
McLeod, Tom-Juvenile literature.
Mackenzie River Delta (N.W.T. and Yukon)-Juvenile literature.
Gwich'in Indians-Hunting-Juvenile literature.
Inuvialuit-Hunting-Juvenile literature.
Traditional ecological knowledge-Mackenzie River Delta (N.W.T. and Yukon)-Juvenile literature.
Aklavik (N.W.T.)-Biography-Juvenile literature.

Grades 3-7 / Ages 8-12.

Review by Gregory Bryan.

*** /4


We Feel Good Out Here = Zhik gwaa'an, nakhwatthaiitat qwiinzii. (The Land is Our Storybook).

Julie-Ann André & Mindy Willett. Photographs by Tessa Macintosh.
Calgary, AB: Fifth House, 2008.
32 pp., hardcover, $16.95.
ISBN 978-1-897252-33-8.

Subject Headings:
André, Julie-Ann-Juvenile literature.
André, Julie-Ann-Family-Juvenile literature.
Gwich'in Indians-Northwest Territories-Juvenile literature.
Traditional ecological knowledge-Northwest Territories-Juvenile literature.
Gwich'in Indians-Northwest Territories- Tsiigehtchic-Biography-Juvenile literature.
Tsiigehtchic (N.W.T.)-Biography-Juvenile literature.

Grades 3-7 / Ages 8-12.

Review by Gregory Bryan.

*** /4



Northerners have always hunted ducks, muskrats, and other animals for survival. We are careful about how we use the land. To be good hunters, we need to pay attention to what is happening on the land around us—that's why it's important for us to be out on the land. We are the first to know if the land and animals are changing. (from The Delta is My Home).

To help them learn their culture, and just to have fun, I take my daughters out trapping and fishing with me. Sometimes they complain and say, "Ah, but Mom do I have to?" I always explain that for them to know who they are they must know the land and the animals that live on it. (from
We Feel Good Out Here).


Judging from the promotional notes that accompany the texts, the people at Fifth House Publishers are excited by their new book series entitled "The Land is our Storybook." The intention of Fifth House is to produce 10 books in the series, and, based upon the first two books, the publishing house has good reason to be excited. The series is touted as the first-ever children's book series about the lands and cultures of Canada's Northwest Territories.

internal art     The first two titles in the "The Land is our Storybook," series are The Delta is My Home and We Feel Good Out Here. Each book, 26 pages in length, is attractively presented and features a sturdy, durable hard cover and strong binding. These design qualities make the books suitable for library or schoolroom circulation where they will be well used because the information-rich books are ideally suited for use as a resource for school projects.

      Both The Delta is My Home and We Feel Good Out Here are illustrated throughout with numerous full colour photographs, ranging in size from double-page spreads to small photographs just a few inches square. The illustrations prove a perfect complement to the words, and, although the photographs are colourful, the photographer, Tessa Macintosh, has resisted the opportunity to try to romanticize her subject matter. Rather, there is an almost gritty, realistic texture to the photographs. In The Delta is My Home, for instance, the photos include images of peat bogs, flooded waterways, bloodied muskrat skins, and a mother and daughter plucking the feathers from dead ducks. What both photos and text do very well is establish the strong connection between the people in the books and the land upon which they live.

      Both books in the "The Land is our Storybook" series feature a satisfying mix of old and new—traditional and contemporary—in the photographs and text. There is also an obvious sense of respect for the Land. Told in a first person voice, each title contains a strong and authentic contemporary northern Aboriginal voice. That voice seems also to be consistent with the oral traditions of indigenous northern People.

      The first person voice in The Delta is My Home is that of 11-year-old co-author Tom McLeod. Tom, who was raised in the Mackenzie River Delta, lives in Aklavik, Northwest Territories. Tom's strong connection with the land is borne largely from his parents. Tom writes that, whilst his father has taught him to use traps and to shoot guns, Tom's father has stressed respect for the land. The head of the pages in this book are decorated with a pattern suggestive of the Delta Braid, which Tom tells us has become a symbol for the cultural mix of the area.

      The author's voice in We Feel Good Out Here is that of Julie-Ann André. Unlike young Tom McLeod, André is an adult, and the change in author's voice is very distinctive. With this in mind, Mindy Willett, the co-author for both books, has done a very good job in maintaining the voice of the first author. I find André's voice more appropriate for older readers. In We Feel Good Out Here, the text is certainly heavier and more sophisticated and is arguably of greater value as a resource for middle school projects whereas I suspect The Delta is My Home is more likely to be a book that children choose to read both for pleasure and for information.

      In We Feel Good Out Here, André includes an interesting and powerful discussion of her residential school experiences. "When I was there," André writes, "I had to do what I was told, and I had to speak English. It was very formal—do this, do that, line up, feel this, think that." André adds that when she emerged, she did so having lost all comfort with herself. "I felt completely out of place and lost." André makes it clear that she wants her children to grow up with a deep appreciation of their cultural heritage. At the same time, André is working hard on her own self-image. "I've worked hard the last ten years to unlearn a lot of what I learned at residential school." It is powerful writing. Perhaps it might help today's students to develop some understanding of a complex and troublesome period from Canada's history.

      Priced at $16.95 per title, the books represent good value for money. Schools and public libraries will find that the series will prove a useful addition to upper elementary and middle school library collections.


Gregory Bryan teaches in the University of Manitoba's Faculty of Education in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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