CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 24. . . .February 25th, 2011.
Fox on the Ice = Maageesees Maskwameek Kaapit.
Tomson Highway. Illustrated by Brian Deines.
Markham, ON: Fifth House/Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2011.
32 pp. hardcover, $19.95.
Cree Indians-Juvenile fiction.
Kindergarten-grade 3 / Ages 5-8.
Review by Ellen Heaney.
**** / 4
This is a reissue of a book originally published by HarperCollins in 2003. Readers of this review may know of Highway’s other picture books about northern Canadian life (Dragonfly Kite and Caribou Song) and his plays for adults.
Cody and dog Ootsie are out for a day of ice-fishing with parents and a younger brother. A picnic of bannock and hot whitefish comes first, and then Papa cuts two holes in the ice.
The first hole was close to shore, but the other
was far out on the lake. Papa knelt beside the
first hole, his net rolled up in a wooden box beside
him. The net looked small, but it was as long as a schoolyard.
They drop their fishing net into the water, attaching it to the wooden float called a jigger.
A curious fox is drawn by the food smells, and Mama and brother Joe, who are dozing in the sled, are swept away when the excited huskies go after it. Nothing Mama does can stop the sled, and Papa is having trouble deciding what to do:
If he didn’t scoop the jigger out of the hole, it
would just keep moving under the ice.
then he would lose both his jigger and his net. But if
he waited for the jigger, her would lose Mama and Joe.
Eventually, while Papa and give chase to the runaways, Ootsie comes to the rescue by grasping the fish net in his mouth, and the expedition is saved.
Although the story is short and simple, each incident and element of the setting is fully described in crisp, short sentences. The English text is parallelled in Cree.
Brian Deines is a Governor General Award nominee and has worked with Highway before, as well as illustrating other authors’ work. Solid, realistic animal and human figures are delineated in stippled oil pastel. The technique captures the light on the snow and in the sky while some interesting points of perspective capture movement on the page.
Recommended for school and public library collections, particularly in the west and the north of Canada.
Ellen Heaney is Head, Children’s Services, New Westminster Public Library, New Westminster, BC.
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