________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 3 . . . . September 21, 2012


Great Writers from our First Nations. (The First Nations Series for Young Readers).

Kim Sigafus & Lyle Ernst.
Toronto, ON: Second Story Press, 2012.
95 pp., trade pbk., $10.95.
ISBN 978-1-926920-85-6.

Subject Headings:
Indian authors-Canada-Biography-Juvenile literature.
Indian authors-United States-Biography-Juvenile literature.
Native peoples in literature-Juvenile literature.

Grades 3-7 / Ages 8-12.

Review by Rachel Yaroshuk.

*** /4



Nicola Campbell has a strong respect for First Nations culture, languages, spirituality, and tradition, and she draws on all of these when she writes adult and children's short fiction and poetry. She explains, "I heard an elder speak of the importance of our languages and our culture. He said that our words are powerful, our stories are elastic, our languages are music; they dance, they move, and they are medicine for our people. He said they are a spirit within themselves, and we are only the channel that brings them to life. I write because I know what he said is true."

Kim Sigafus and Lyle Ernst have created a fantastic resource for young readers interested in learning about First Nations writers. This nonfiction book follows a similar format to the other books in the "From our First Nations" series. Great Writers from our First Nations focuses on 10 major authors in the First Nations community, providing biographical details relating to each author's career, personal life, and First Nations community connection. The biographies are open and honest, sharing the hardship and trials of the First Nations people, while simultaneously emphasizing the inspiring character of these remarkable authors.

      The 10 authors included in this biographical collection are: Sherman Alexie, Louise Erdrich, Joseph Boyden, N. Scott Momaday, Marilyn Dumont, Tomson Highway, Joseph Bruchac, Maria Campbell, Nicola Campbell, and Tim Tingle. The details for this book were gathered via a combination of research and personal interviews with the featured First Nations writers. This combination of authors nicely balances both American and Canadian First Nations representation. While this book does not attempt to provide comprehensive coverage of all First Nations authors, it is valuable in highlighting some of the major First Nations contributions to the literary landscape.

      Each chapter of Great Writers from our First Nations is accompanied by two or three black and white photographs of the featured author. Fact boxes throughout the text explain concepts or historical events and people that the juvenile audience may not be familiar with. In addition, a glossary located at the beginning of the book clarifies terminology that is repeated throughout multiple biographies.

      At the end of Great Writers from our First Nations, additional resources are provided, both for text and e-sources. The resource section is valuable for launching further research and discussion on the topics of publishing, First Nations writing, and author specific information. Another excellent feature is the selected works section found at the end of each biography. These selected works are broad in their scope and include fiction, nonfiction, folk stories, picture books, and monologues, as well as operas, plays, film and other creative work. This section is valuable to readers wishing to learn more about a specific First Nations author. It may also be valuable to librarians seeking to expand the First Nations material represented in their collections.

      Great Writers from our First Nations is well written in simple language that can easily be understood by its intended audience. Each biography is engaging and offers inspiration to aspiring authors. These biographies exemplify that, despite life's obstacles, we can all work together towards success and healing. The text's quantity can be a bit dense at times, but should be well received by readers between the ages of 8-12. I would recommend this book as a valuable addition to any collection seeking to increase First Nations representation.


Rachel Yaroshuk is a Master of Library and Information Studies student at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC.

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

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