Exciting children’s books provided for First Nations’ local libraries

GoodMinds.com supports First Nations Community Libraries in several ways. One of the ways we help is by offering a selection of book titles chosen by experienced First Nation Public Librarians in Southern Ontario.

This collection of recommended books for an annual reading program was launched in 2003 by the First Nations public library community. The selection for 2014-2015 is highlighted in the First Nation Communities READ Poster featuring 32 children’s books that encourage family literacy, intergenerational storytelling, and intergenerational information sharing.First Nation Logo

Chosen by a jury of First Nation Public Librarians, this outstanding list of children’s books include board books for toddlers, language books, picture books, legends, graphic novels, information books, and novels.

From the over forty submissions, the jury of librarians selected Julie Flett’s bilingual (English and n-dialect Cree or Swampy Cree from the Cumberland House area) picture book, Wild Berries as the winning title.

Cree/Métis author and illustrator Julie Flett has created a charming picture book about the simple act of blueberry picking. Grandmother and grandson Clarence always picked berries together. Even when the boy was a baby Grandmother took him out to the land. Grandmother sang to the child. Now that he has grown, Clarence can carry the pail by himself and sing songs with his Grandmother.

Grandmother has taught Clarence what to look for when the pair are in the woods. She carefully watches for bears, they discover a spider weaving a web, and they gives thanks together when the picking is complete. The love between Grandmother and grandson is evident throughout this 32-page book.

Simple watercolour drawings in black, red and brown mixed with collage capture the natural environment of the Cree grandmother and grandson gathering berries. Descriptive words aid the simply told story about an age old tradition maintained in the present day.

Selected words such as grandmother, wild berries, bears, fox, birds, thank you, and sing are provided in the Swampy Cree (n dialect) that is spoken in Cumberland House. This community does not use syllabics in their writing. A helpful pronunciation guide is provided by Earl Cook. The author includes a basic recipe for blueberry jam using no preservatives.

The author created an additional edition of Wild Berries, Pakwa che Menisu, in the Cree language only (n-dialect from the Cross Lake, Norway House area).

The jury stated, “The surface story of a day of sunshine, birdsong, and berry picking in a woodland clearing makes for a deceptively simple-seeming picture book. However, Wild Berries’ and Pakwa che Menisu have important underlying themes: the importance of intergenerational relationships and teaching, respect for Mother Earth and all her creatures and creations, and the acknowledgment, preservation, and use of Aboriginal languages and dialects. Even Flett’s wild blueberry jam recipe speaks to traditions of socializing and feasting.”

The next selection for First Nation Communities will be announced in May 2015 and will focus young adult and adult books written by First Nations, Inuit, or Métis authors/storytellers.

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