CM . . . . Volume XX Number 23 . . . . February 14, 2014
Ojibwa artist and author Ferguson Plain weaves another delightful story focussing on traditional Aboriginal values. Nokomis and I is an insightful story of a young boy's journey through nature with his grandmother Nokomis. As the boy and Nokomis walk, they discover a spider, Sespike, along their path. Nokomis stops to share the lesson of the spider's web, explaining how the Circle of Life is made up of humans, animals, plants, and stones delicately woven together. Each relies on their relationships to keep life in balance.
After offering thanks for Sespike's wisdom, Nokomis and her grandson walk further. They stop by a stream, and Nokomis shares the wisdom of the seven rocks, Niizhwaashwi Mishoomisag. Nokomis explains that each rock represents a human characteristic that make for a healthy, balanced life. A person should strive to possess wisdom, respect, love, honesty, bravery, humility, and truth. After receiving a lesson from the rocks, the boy bundles the rocks for grandfather Mishoomis' sweat lodge.
Ferguson Plain's strong connection to his Ojibwa culture is evident in the way he seamlessly incorporates traditional Aboriginal values into his book. The plot of Nokomis and I offers reflection on the interdependence of the natural world and personal characteristics while the interactions between Nokomis and her grandson demonstrate the importance of giving thanks and offering respect to nature and elders.
While the words provide one reading of the story, the illustrations enrich the story with additional meaning. Plain pairs his story with bold black ink illustrations juxtaposed against colourful watercolour backgrounds. The watercolour hues of purples, blues, and greys offer a stunning canvas for the ink silhouettes.
Each page follows a similar illustrative rhythm, with an image of the boy and Nokomis sitting or standing together under the Circle of Life. In each picture, Nokomis and her grandson carry a shadow, not of a human, but of a bear. I love the details, like the bear shadow, that allude to Plain's relationship with the Bear clan of Aamjiwanaang First Nations. The illustrations and text are creatively integrated into this book, providing a unique reading experience.
Plain's illustrations, combined with his text, offer layers of insight into Aboriginal values and beliefs. He also seamlessly incorporates select Ojibwa words into his text and provides a glossary for future reference. In a few short pages, Plain is able to communicate a wide array of Aboriginal cultural motifs.
Nokomis and I is a great medium to increase children's exposure to Aboriginal world views.
Rachel Yaroshuk is an Auxiliary Librarian at North Vancouver District Public Library.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.