________________ CM . . . . Volume VII Number 14 . . . . March 16, 2001

cover SkySisters.

Jan Bourdeau Waboose. Illustrated by Brian Deines.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2000.
32 pp., cloth, $15.95.
ISBN 1-55074-697-9.

Subject Headings:
Auroras-Juvenile fiction.
Ojibwa Indians-Juvenile fiction.
Sisters-Juvenile fiction.

Kindergarten - grade 3 /Ages 5 - 8.

Review by Val Nielsen.

*** /4

In SkySisters, as in her previous books, award-winning author Jan Bourdeau Waboose draws on her Ojibway background to create a gently-paced reflective picture book. On a cold winter's night in Northern Ontario, sisters Allie and Alex (or Nimise and Nishiimi, the Ojibway names they give themselves) set out in search of the SkySpirits which their mother has assured them will come that very night. As Mother waves them off she


"...raises a finger to her lips and quietly says, 'Shhh, remember the words of Grandmother, our Nokomis. Wisdom comes on silent wings."

image Trekking through the icy stillness, Allie, the elder sister, continually reminds her younger sister to whisper when she speaks; however, it is not easy for Alex to curb her excitement and remember Grandmother's words. Their quiet is rewarded by the sight of a fluffy white rabbit and an encounter with a shy, white-tailed deer. On top of Coyote Hill, the sisters sing back to the lonely howls of a coyote, and then, spinning and dancing under the stars, they fall on their backs and watch the sky for the arrival of the SkySpirits. Before long, their patience is rewarded, and the heavens are suffused with the Northern Lights, shimmering in brilliant hues, dancing and swirling over their heads.

      Brian Deines, an accomplished artist and illustrator of Bear on the Train (1999), has created paintings which are wonderfully evocative of the northern boreal landscape in its winter glory. Scenes depicting the girls dancing beneath the star-filled sky, then lying on their backs to watch the sky erupting into brilliant streamers of blue, green, purple and pink, capture the wonder and awe of those moments perfectly.

      As she did in Morning on the Lake (1997), Waboose has chosen to tell her story in the first person, present tense. Consequently, the author has once again experienced some difficulty with authenticity of voice. A few age-inappropriate words and expressions in the text jar the reader and tend to diminish the believability of the young narrator. Despite this drawback, however, SkySisters is a beautifully illustrated remembrance of the author's childhood experience. It should be a welcome addition to the school library collection of picture books with aboriginal themes and characters.


Valerie Nielsen is a retired teacher-librarian who lives in Winnipeg, MB.

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

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364