________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 28 . . . . March 27, 2015


Hokey Dowa Gerda and the Snowflake Girl.

M. J. Matheson.
Winnipeg, MB: Peanut Butter Press, 2014.
32 pp., hardcover, $19.95.
ISBN 978-1-927735-10-7.

Subject Heading:
Native peoples-Canada-Juvenile fiction.

Preschool-grade 5 / Ages 3-10.

Review by Chasity Findlay.

**½ /4



The first not-so-ordinary thing happens when the elder comes to visit.

"Wolf Spirit has been talking," says the elder, "and he is telling me good things," he says. "The Wolf has brought you kids extraordinary names."

"Faith," he says, "the Grandfathers and the Grandmothers have sent Wolf to tell you this—you are the light after a storm. Your name is Rainbow Girl.

"Dakota," the elder says, "Wolf has brought your name, too, from the Grandmothers and the Grandfathers. You have a big voice and a big name—Loud Rolling Thunder.

"These are good names," the elder says. "These names will help you."

Faith and Dakota are extraordinarily excited. They give presents to the elder and they have a feast, and then their mom says, "Okay you ordinary kids, it's time to hit the hay, head for bed, snick the sack. I mean, it's bedtime."

So they go to bed.
And then the next not-so-ordinary thing happens.

Peanut Butter Press' new picture book introduces readers to two ordinary kids named Faith and Dakota. They live with their mom and two pets in an ordinary house with an ordinary river and a sweat lodge nearby. Extraordinary things start happening to Faith and Dakota soon after receiving a visit from an elder who gives them their Aboriginal names. With the guidance of their mom, the elders in their community, and their own intuition, Faith and Dakota try to get to the bottom of the not-so-ordinary events that have been taking place. They also manage to make some new friends along the way.

      After receiving their Aboriginal names, Rainbow Girl and Loud Rolling Thunder, the children start receiving night-time visits from Snowflake Girl, who fills the bedroom with snow, and Hokey Dowa Gerda, who twirls and makes toys crash off the shelves. The children seek guidance from the Grandfathers and Grandmothers in the sweat lodge to cope with Snowflake Girl and Hokey Dowa Gerda's visits so that their lives will be ordinary again and they will be able to get some sleep. Although I could appreciate the way that the children solve their problems with their night-time visitors, I am not sure that it will be clear to readers who Snowflake Girl and Hokey Dowa Gerda are and how Faith and Dakota solve the problems they cause. For this reason, I think that it is important for parents and teachers to provide some background information and discuss the book with children in order to ensure understanding of the climax of the book.

internal art

      Matheson's colourful illustrations are eye-catching and will draw readers into the story. The artwork, which was sketched and rendered in Photoshop, is extremely detailed. Matheson has also added texture in appropriate places in her artwork, thereby addimg to its charm. On many of the pages, Faith and Dakota are visually represented as ducks which complements the references found throughout the text to their being "lucky ducks". I can imagine that children will enjoy examining the illustrations time and time again and noticing new features.

      Matheson has woven a tale that combines Aboriginal storytelling and cultural practices with a focus on relationships between siblings, parent and child, and with elders in the community. The text is at times both mysterious and cheerful. Although I think that Hokey Dowa Gerda and the Snowflake Girl is well-written and illustrated, I do not think the big ideas presented in the book can be fully appreciated by the young children at which I believe it is targeted. I think that it would be necessary for parents and teachers to supplement the reading of this book with other resources and background information to support children's understanding. For this reason, I believe that this book would be most appropriate for children at the top of the age range I have indicated above.

Recommended with Reservations.

Chasity Findlay is a high school English teacher and a graduate student at the University of Manitoba.

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

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.
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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
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