________________ CM . . . . Volume VI Number 15 . . . . March 31, 2000

cover The Bone Talker.

Shelley A. Leedahl. Illustrated by Bill Slavin.
Red Deer, AB: Red Deer Press, 1999.
32 pp., cloth, $17.95.
ISBN 0-88995-214-0.

Kindergarten-grade 3 / Ages 5-8.
Review by Alison Mews.

*** /4


Not so very long ago or far away lived an old woman whose life had wound down like a clock. Gone were the tick and tock of her youth, when she'd steered a raft down a roaring river and climbed the long arms of the trees. Now she creaked when she hobbled across the room.

She'd felt the passing of many seasons in her knees and had stopped marking the moons since her hair had spun into a white mist. Now the old woman talked to her bones as if they were her children, who also were old and scattered like dandelion seeds across the land.

"Shhh, shhh," she whispered when her bones began telling stories."Give an old woman some peace."

image In evocative prose, Leedahl relates the attempts of one prairie community to reach out to a reclusive woman who has become overburdened by the weight of her years. In order to entice her back into society, the neighbours bring delectable goodies, boisterous music and visual delights. Sadly, all overtures are ignored, but, as time passes and there is no change, they try again. This time, one small child is able to penetrate the gloom with two bright pieces of cloth and a request that she sew them together. Soon neighbours from far and wide are bringing scraps of cloth and "patches of memory" to the old woman who sews a fantastic quilt, regaining vitality with every piece added. When the quilt fills the house, she waltzes it out the door where it spreads across the countryside and forms the prairie landscape as seen from above.

In a departure from his other picture books, Bill Slavin has created folksy, earthy illustrations that match the text perfectly. Using a deep palette of prairie colours, particularly blues and browns, he has imbued his whimsical figures with a textured, rugged charm. The sense of caring and community is well-developed, and the intergenerational message is gently delivered. It was unfortunate that the designer chose to use a tiny font for all but the first lines of each page, a choice which makes reading aloud difficult, and this book begs to be shared aloud. Also, the practice of lightening the background behind the text to make it more legible on coloured pages was not followed consistently. Otherwise, this is a wonderful book to commemorate the International Year of the Older Person.


Alison Mews is the Director of the Curriculum Materials Centre at the Faculty of Education, Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John's, NF.

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.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364