________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 10 . . . . November 6, 2009


Edànì Nôgèe Wegöö Degèe Adzà: How the Fox Got His Crossed Legs.

Virginia Football, collector. Illustrated by James Wedzin. Translated to English by Rose Mantla & Mary Siemens.
Penticton, BC: Theytus Books, 2009.
32 pp. (Includes CD-ROM), hardcover, $22.95.
ISBN 978-1-894778-74-9.

Subject Headings:
Dogrib Indians-Folklore.
Oral traditions-Northwest Territories.

Preschool-grade 3 / Ages 3-9.

Review by Gregory Bryan.

**** /4


Long ago, the Fox and Bear were arguing. The Bear is known for his quick temper. Once, when Bear and Fox got into an argument, Bear lost his temper and accidentally pulled off Fox's front leg.


In Theytus Books' new publication, How the Fox Got His Crossed Legs, the story begins with an argument between Fox and ill-tempered Bear. In his anger, Bear pulls off Fox's leg and runs away. Eventually, the leg is returned, but, in careless haste, the leg is reattached the wrong way around.

     How the Fox Got His Crossed Legs is the retelling of a traditional First Nation Tlicho or Dogrib legend. The dual text is presented in both English and the Dogrib language. Rosa Mantla and Mary Siemens provided the Tlicho translation. The English text story was written by Virginia Football. Her economical text leaves considerable room for James Wedzin's illustrations to add detail and interest. The author and illustrator complement one another to produce what is, at once, a simple, enjoyable story, but also a highly engaging, dramatic tale.

internal art

     At book's end, four-pages are devoted to a Dogrib orthography and pronunciation guide. While the casual reader need not concern himself/herself with this supplementary material, this information is, no doubt, of potentially profound educative potential and adds considerably to the authenticity of the book. Among the end pages, Theytus has also included the transcript of a Tlicho Elder's oral telling of the traditional tale, plus an English translation of the Elder's story. This interesting addition is in keeping with Theytus' efforts to "maintain the integrity of each legend even as [they] change its form from the original oral tradition to the written word."

     I believe this to be the best book so far in the Dogrib / Tlicho series. The story is humorous but filled with tension. Although the story protagonists are animals and birds, there are easy applications to the world of humans' things such as the importance of friendship and maintaining control of our tempers come quickly to mind. Yet the book never reads as didactic. This book is about good storytelling. It just so happens that there are lessons of value to readers.

     Wedzin's paintings are a particular strength of the book. The portrayals of Fox, Bear, Raven and the other animals are realistic and attractive. Readers will note, for instance, the texture of Bear's coat as he swims through the water and as he is illuminated by the moonlight. The grass is richly textured, as is Bear's den. This element, and the skillful use of line, colour and value (or light and darkness) all add depth and detail to the artwork.

     I have never thought of foxes as having crossed legs, and so this aspect (a very important one to the story) gave me cause to pause and wonder. I looked at several images of foxes on the Internet. Depending on the photograph, although it was not always evident, there were certainly some photographs in which I could see how people would think that a fox's hind legs appear crossed or the wrong way around.

     A multimedia CD-ROM accompanies the book. The CD-ROM contains an audio recording of the story in the English language and in the Tlicho language. Priced at $22.95 CDN, the book represents good value. How the Fox Got His Crossed Legs is an enjoyable, beautiful book that is suitable for young children in its simplicity, but will appeal to readers of all ages.

Highly Recommended.

Gregory Bryan teaches children's literature and literacy classes in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB.

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

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.

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
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