________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 5. . . .October 24, 2008


Fiddle Dancer.

Anne Patton & Wilfred Burton. Illustrated by Sherry Farrell Racette.
Michif translation by Norman Fleury.
Saskatoon, SK: The Gabriel Dumont Institute, 2007.
46 pp. & CD, pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 978-0-920915-76-9.

Subject Headings:
Métis-Juvenile fiction.
Elders (Native peoples)-Canada-Juvenile fiction.
Métis-Social life and customs-Juvenile fiction.

Preschool-grade 4 / Ages 3-9.

Review by Gary Babiuk.

**** /4



Fiddle Dancer is a delightful and playful book that combines a lively story with colorful and fanciful illustrations. It is a love story of not only a grandfather and grandson but of a tradition, step-dancing, that binds communities and people together, in this case the Métis (also Michif) people. Fiddle Dancer is an everyday story of a grandparent spending quality time with a grandchild. The book is dedicated "for those who keep Métis culture alive by fiddling, dancing, remembering Michif and sharing stories."

     Authors Anne Patton and Wilfred Burton collaborated with illustrator Sherry Farrell Racette and translator Norman Fleury in their first book to add to the limited children's literature on Métis life, culture, music, dress, and heritage. The book includes both Michif and English in the text, a CD with audio in both languages, a glossary of Métis words, and a recipe for bannock. The story opens on New Year's Eve at a community dance where an extended family is enjoying a traditional Michif celebration. The grandfather, Moushoom, and grandson, Nolin, are sharing some time together celebrating and dancing.

It was way past bedtime on New Year's Eve, but Nolin's shoes were still tapping. The lively fiddle music gave him energy. He hopped from side to side, copying the other dancers. Nolin glanced up and Moushoom winked from across the dance circle. Nolin tried even harder to get the step right. Then the tempo went faster. Moushoom moved to the middle to show off his fancy steps. The other dancers hooted and clapped. Moushoom's feet flashed high, then snapped the floor. The fringes on his sash bounced to the beat. When the music slowed, Moushoom was gasping for breath, "I'm too old for this." He puffed. Moushoom's friend yelled, "Hey, ol'Baptiste, better teach your grandson to take your place." Nolin felt his face turning red. He could never dance like Moushoom.

internal art     During the rest of their time together, the grandfather passes on his love and skill of dancing to his grandson. The qualities displayed in the story by the adult include loving kindness, patience, encouragement, participation and demonstration, and those by the child include perseverance, observation and concentration.

     Fiddle Dancer is a story for the classroom. It integrates history, language arts, music and art into an active narrative. It also provides an example of the Métis language which helps children understand its importance to culture, and it also explores the history and heritage of the Michif culture, an integral part of the heritage and historical roots of Canada and North America.

     But most importantly, it is a story for reading over and over again on a cold winter's night to a child who is snuggled into the lap of a loving parent or grandparent. But you are warned; there is a danger that while reading this book spontaneous dancing may break out.

Highly Recommended.

Gary Babiuk is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba. He teaches Social Studies Methods and is interested in holistic learning, sustainability and spirituality in education.

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

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