________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 24. . . .February 26, 2010


The Secret of Your Name: Proud to be Métis: Kiimooch ka shinikashooyen: aen kishchitaymook aen li michif iwik.

David Bouchard. Illustrated by Dennis Weber. Music by John Arcand.
Calgary, AB: Red Deer Press, 2009.
32 pp., includes a CD, hardcover, $24.95.
ISBN 978-0-88995-439-7.

Subject Headings:
Michif language-Juvenile fiction.
Métis-History-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Gregory Bryan.

*** /4



I don’t know where to start
I can only say I’m sorry
That no one ever spoke of you
That I was never told of you.

I don’t know how to tell you
I can only say I’m sorry
That no one ever told me
That you were Anishnaabe.

David Bouchard’s latest book, The Secret of Your Name, is a proud declaration of his Métis heritage and, at the same time, a humble apology to his forebears for not rejoicing in his heritage earlier. The Secret of Your Name is accompanied by an audio CD. The book and CD combination is the product of the collaboration of talented Métis artists—writer, Bouchard; artist, Dennis J. Weber; and musician, John Arcand, whose fiddle music features on the CD recording.

internal art     In many respects, Bouchard’s poetic text is deeply personal and intimate. Bouchard’s revelation of the discovery of his Métis culture, his pride in that identity, but his simultaneous regret that it was suppressed for so long is, on one level, a complex, sophisticated text that will demand maturity of his readers. Yet, Bouchard’s word choices and Weber’s artwork assist the reader in navigating what might otherwise be a puzzling journey.

     Weber’s realistic, full colour paintings supplement Bouchard’s words, adding an extra dimension to the feelings Bouchard is trying to express. Double page paintings are a feature throughout the book. Bouchard appears in several of the paintings, including one where he is depicted playing a flute (Bouchard’s flute music is also included on the audio CD). Full page portraits of Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont, two of the principal characters in Métis history, also appear.

     An English and a French version of the book have been produced, with both books also containing accompanying Michif text. In the English version of the book that I have for review, the CD recording features the story read in English and the Michif language. The English reading is by Bouchard and is a moving reading. This book obviously means a great deal to Bouchard, and so his appearance in the paintings and his own reading of the text are worthwhile additions.

     The Secret of Your Name will especially appeal to people with Métis heritage. The book, however, offers an interesting insight into Canada and her history and so is likely to appeal to many people regardless of Métis links.


Gregory Bryan teaches children’s literature in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba.

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

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