CM March 22, 
1996. Vol. II, Number 23

image Wesakejack and the Bears.

Bill Ballantyne. Illustrated by Linda Mullin.
Winnipeg: Bain & Cox Publishers, 1994. 32pp, cloth, $12.95.
ISBN 0-921368-46-1. CIP.

Subject Headings:
Wesakejack (Legendary character)-Legends.
Cree Indians-Folklore.

Preschool - grade 3 / Ages 3 - 8.
Review by Carol Carver.



Once long ago Wesakejack was travelling. He became hungry. [Peyakwaw kayas Wesakechak epapamoteyot ke atinotekatew.] He saw bears travelling toward the fishing rapids. Every year at this time there were many fish at the fishing rapids. Wesakejack hurried to get ahead of the bears and get his share of fish. By the time he got there the sun was going down. So Wesakejack had to wait until morning. When Wesakejack woke up the sun was shining. The bears began to arrive. When they saw Wesakejack, the bears stopped on top of the hill. They would wait for Wesakejack to get his fish.

Wesajack Bill Ballantyne is a Native story teller from Saskatchewan who moved to the Brokenhead Reserve in Manitoba to teach grades two and three. This book, the third in a series, reflects his championship of the Cree culture and language -- he tells his tale in both English and Cree.

The legendary trickster, Wesakejack, attempts to catch fish by spearing them, hitting them with a stick, and grabbing them, but is unsuccessful. The watching bears are consumed with laughter, but promise to get some fish for the hapless man. At the end, Wesakejack thanks the bears and continues on his way.


This yarn is a spare one, perhaps because of the use of two languages. The plot is basic and uneventful, while the narrative is rather uninteresting and does not flow smoothly. More careful editing would have caught several omitted commas.

The cover is colourful, shows action, and foreshadows the story. It depicts Wesakejack as looking somewhat like the photo of the author. But in general, Mullin's illustrations show a lack of skill: Wesakejack is not drawn consistently; more colour is needed; and the bears and fish look like cartoon animals.

This work is at a primary level and can be used in the study of Native legends. It would function most successfully as a teaching vehicle in a Cree classroom.

Recommended mainly for use in Cree-language situations.

Carol Carver is a Primary Teacher at École Dieppe School in Winnipeg.

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Copyright © 1996 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364