________________ CM . . . . Volume IX Number 1 . . . . September 6, 2002

cover Lessons from Mother Earth.

Elaine McLeod. Illustrated by Colleen Wood.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood, 2002.
24 pp., cloth, $15.95.
ISBN 0-88899-312-9.

Preschool-grade 3 / Ages 4-8.

Review by Linda Ludke.

*** /4


As we walked, Grandma talked. "I was taught that if you take more plants than you need, they will never grow back. But if you don't pick any and just leave them sitting year after year, they will slowly wither away and die. To pick just enough is the secret."

"While you're picking, say a little prayer thanking Mother Earth for these beautiful gifts. Be careful, Tess, that you don't trample the bushes, especially the berry bushes. Once they are trampled and broken, they don't grow again."

Tess, a young First Nations girl, enjoys visiting her grandmother who lives in a mountain cabin. One morning Grandmother wants to show Tess her garden. As they walk down the trail along the creek, Tess discovers the "garden" is really all of nature. Grandmother shares with Tess the "rules of the garden" that have been followed by their family for generations. The most important lesson is respect for nature. Tess learns how to pick just enough wild berries, making sure not to take more fruit than they can eat and not to damage the bushes. The garden also needs nurturing, and Grandmother explains how the earth is destroyed by carelessly thrown rubbish and how everyone has a responsibility to care for our land. Tess and her grandmother pick lamb's-quarters, dandelion shoots and blueberries for supper, and, as they are leaving, Tess whispers a prayer of thanks to Mother Earth for sharing her bounty and to Great Spirit for giving her such a wise grandmother.     

internal art

      Wood's delicate watercolors depict nature in full bloom, with closeups of ripe blueberries. Woodland animals appear in the background, and observant readers will identify a fox, deer and rabbit. The illustrations often enhance the meaning of the text. For example, when Tess is learning about the importance of patience, because "not everything in the garden is ready for picking yet," a lovely double-page spread depicts the changing seasons. When Grandmother is reminiscing about learning from her ancestors, a sepia-colored illustration takes the reader back to the grandmother's childhood.

      First-time author Elaine McLeod is a member of Na-Cho Nyak Dun First Nation. The oral tradition is evident in this thoughtful book. McLeod's storytelling pays homage to her elders who pass on their history and wisdom to the next generation.      

This book would be a good environmental discussion starter for primary grades.


Linda Ludke is a librarian in London,

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364