CM . . .
. Volume XVIII Number 5. . . .September 30, 2011
Edànì Nogèe Done God'edì = How Fox Saved the People.
Virginia Football, Compiler. Illustrated by James Wedzin. Translated by Mary Siemens & Rosa Mantla.
Penticton, BC: Theytus Books, 2010.
56 pp., Includes CD, hardcover, $26.95.
Oral tradition-Northwest Territories.
Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 3-7.
Review by Lara LeMoal.
Once upon a time, in a camp near Great Slave Lake, there were no caribou to kill. For days, the families went without food. Everyone was very hungry and weak.
The landscape of a place and its people in this picturebook by Theytus Books is remarkable. How Fox Saved the People is a Dogrib story that describes the efforts of a starving people as they rely on help from the fox in order to discover how to survive.
The illustrations of Tåîchô artist James Wedzin ground readers in the story. In what appears to be oil on canvas, the heavy and richly colored visuals give a strong sense of setting for the reader, as well as indicate (through Wedzin's depiction of light) the passing of time. While the oil paintings sometimes feel weighted and slightly formal, the illustrations consistently provide the emotional tone.
How Fox Saved the People has many qualities to admire, but perhaps the most noteworthy is its authenticity, in the sense that it is culturally accurate, genuine, and respectful. Both the introduction and the editorial note included in this work provide clear statements of the intent of this publisher, intentions invaluable to the Canadian industry.
While this story was originally an oral one, the picturebook format is well suited to recreate the tale. Picturebooks by their nature are read over and over again, often by different voices to different ears, and are, therefore, ideally suited to bridge the gap between an oral tradition and one in print. In addition, the book includes an audio multimedia CD in Dogrib and English, lending further consistency to the story's repetitive and interactive quality.
As readers follow this story to its conclusion, the familiar 'Once upon a time' format delivers just what it suggests: conflict, resolution, and some excitement along the way. One curious aspect of How Fox Saved the People is the small discrepancies between the text accompanying the illustrations and the original translation (told by Elder Harry Mantla), the text of which is provided at the back of the book. In some instances, it feels as though particularly vivid and humorous details of the story are missing. The translation has many animated and lively details, for instance, an explanation of why the Raven is 'that way to this day.' 'Frozen Caribou eyeballs' are another remarkable detail missing from the main text. These relatively small elements would have added to the impact of this rendition of the tale.
To borrow from the words of Thomas King, "There isn't any center to the world but a story." With How Fox Saved the People, readers manage, with pleasure, to get a little closer to that center.
Lara LeMoal is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Children's Literature at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC.
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