Fifteen years ago, I learned about three delightful picture books by Tomson Highway. Illustrated by Brian Deines, each one had a great story that was presented in English and in Cree. Fox on the Ice, Caribou Song, and Dragonfly Kites were published by a major publisher (HarperCollins) in Canada but went out of print. In 2008, I was able to get copies of them.
Fifth House reissued Caribou Song with a new illustrator, John Rombough. It went on to win the picture book award from the American Indian Library Association. Highway is Cree; Rombough is Dene.
While the art Deines did in the early 2000s was realistic and had appeal for that realism, I gotta say that I really like Rombough's work. It is visually arresting and provides the opportunity to teach children about different kinds of art. I highly recommend Caribou Song.
I am thrilled that Fifth House is giving us DragonFly Kites this year. The illustrator is one of my favorite artists: Julie Flett. Here's the synopsis for Dragonfly Kites:
Joe and Cody, two young Cree brothers, along with their parents and their little dog Ootsie, are spending the summer by one of the hundreds of lakes in northern Manitoba. Summer means a chance to explore the world and make friends with an array of creatures.
But what Joe and Cody like doing best of all is flying dragonfly kites. They catch dragonflies and gently tie a length of thread around the middle of each dragonfly before letting it go. Off soar the dragonflies into the summer sky and off race the brothers and Ootsie too, chasing after their dragonfly kites through trees and meadows and down to the beach before watching them disappear into the night sky.
As kids do, Joe and Cody befriend animals. One summer their pet was a baby Arctic tern they named Freddy. Another summer, they were fond of a baby loon that they named Sally. And on another summer, they were watching two baby eagles (not paginated):
They named one Migisoo, which means "eagle" in Cree. The other they named Wagisoo, which doesn't mean anything but rhymes with Migisoo.Migisoo! Cracks me up! Here's that page, and look! That dog? That's Ootsie:
Dragonfly Kites will be at the top of my lists this year! And of course, I wonder... will Fifth House be giving us the third book (Fox On Ice), too? I hope so!