CM . . .
. Volume XIX Number 13. . . .November 30, 2012
Rainbow Crow = Nagweyaabi-aandeg.
David Bouchard. Illustrated by David Jean. Translated by David Hones. Music of Manantial.
Markham, ON: Red Deer Press/Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2012.
32 pp., (Includes CD-ROM), hardcover, $24.95.
Ojibwa Indians-Folklore-Juvenile literature.
Grades 2-4 / Ages 7-9.
Review by Gregory Bryan.
Blue Jay spoke. "We are all going to die. This is our last year on earth. Not one will live through this winter. The cold is too harsh and the snow is too deep for us to find food."
Bear pushed his way through to the front of the gathering. He spoke softly yet all heard.
"No one has to die! Our Creator didn't place us here just to watch us die! Someone has to go to Creator to ask for help."
Red Deer Press' new picture book, Rainbow Crow, is presented in dual languages with English and Ojibwe text. In the book, David Bouchard retells the Lenape (Delaware) legend of how Crow brought fire to the Earth to save us all from the cold and darkness of winter. This required Crow to travel to the Creator to ask for help. In doing so, however, Crow was forced to fly too close to the sun. Her beautiful rainbow plumage was scorched black. In her pain-filled cries, she also lost the use of her lovely, melodic voice as her skin and throat were burned and damaged. The Lenape legend tells us that, although Crow no longer is the colourful, beautifully melodic bird of the past, her present appearance and harsh voice remind us of her heroic deed. Indeed, they should remind us all of our debt to Crow.
David Jean's detailed, realistic illustrations were painted on traditional drum skins. As such, the circular shape of the artwork reflects the "circle of life" that Bouchard discusses in his foreword. The drum skins and Jean's brush strokes lend texture to the illustrations, giving them a lifelike, almost three-dimensional quality.
At times, the text and the illustrations are not in perfect harmony. For instance, when Crow visits the Creator, the illustration shows Crow holding a stick in her mouth while the Creator holds a ball of fire in his hand. The text, however, states that the Creator left and returned "bearing a branch with bright flames dancing from one end." There are one or two other instances of this lack of equilibrium between text and illustration but, despite this, Jean's illustrations certainly add further beauty to what is a beautiful story.
Included within the book is an audio CD featuring English, Ojibwe and French readings of the text. The CD also features the music of Ecuadorian group, Manantial. The CD allows one to close one's eyes and to listen to Bouchard's retelling of this traditional tale, allowing the imagination to run free.
Bouchard's evocative and touching story will appeal to a wide audience. In reading how Crow came to have black plumage and the harsh "Caw" with which we are today so familiar, we read of a brave, humble bird. The inspirational story of this heroic bird teaches readers about willingness to sacrifice individual selves for the good of all. It is an important lesson taught through an enjoyable story.
Gregory Bryan is a professor of children's literature at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB.
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