Friday, April 20, 2007


Several weeks ago I wrote about Richard Van Camp’s novel, The Lesser Blessed, which I recommend for YA readers. Today I want to call your attention to his picture book, What’s the Most Beautiful Thing You Know About Horses? It joins Jingle Dancer and The Good Luck Cat as my favorite picture books by and about American Indians.

Published in 1998 by Children’s Book Press, it is beautiful, funny, and engaging. Van Camp’s style of writing, paired with George Littlechild’s art make for an irresistible read.

You’ll learn about the Dogrib people (First Nations, Canada)...  Where they are, some of their words, and, life in the Northwest Territories. It is that life in the Northwest Territories that the book opens with:

Today it is forty below
in my hometown of Fort Smith
in the Northwest Territories of Canada.
It is winter and I am cold.
Not even my long johns and parka
can help me today.

It is so cold the ravens refuse to fly.
My dog, Holmes, refuses to bark.
My dad’s truck, which we call
the “Green Death,” refuses to start
and I cannot go outside.

Lively and rich, isn’t it? And funny! It continues that way, throughout the book. I love reading this book, feeling Van Camp's words, and studying Littlechild's illustrations. Get a copy, and, look, for example, at the page where Van Camp talks about being half Indian and half white, and how Littlechild illustrates that line. Lots to think and talk about!

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