Two Breathtakingly Beautiful Books

Two picture books by fellow Manitoba authors have been on the McNally Robinson Booksellers bestseller list with my novel Lost on the Prairie for the last month. They are both so beautiful they take your breath away.

Tasha Spillett-Sumner’s I Sang You Down From the Stars uses lovely poetic text to tenderly tell the story of a mother awaiting the birth of her baby. As she waits she collects items of special meaning for her child’s sacred medicine bundle.

In the summer she finds a feather, a reminder of nature’s beauty all around. In the fall she gathers cedar and sage to keep her baby’s spirit strong. In the winter she and her older children craft a beautiful star blanket so the baby can be wrapped in safety and warmth. In the spring just before she gives birth, the mother selects a stone from a waterway so her child will remember the place where they belong and the special stories that place carries.

Each of the illustrations by Michaela Goade in this book could be framed art prints. Readers will want to linger on the pages to absorb all the little details included, to savour the gorgeous colour palettes chosen, and to fully experience the varying emotions every illustration evokes.

I first learned about the Indigenous medicine bundles at the heart of Tasha’s story when I did an interview with Winnipeg born artist Robert Houle many years ago for a Winnipeg Free Press newspaper article. He told me about the medicine bundles his female elders had brought to his home when his younger sisters were born.

I Sang You Down From the Stars is going to the top of my list as a gift for new babies and their parents. It is easy to see why it has been on the New York Times bestseller list. It was meaningful to learn that Tasha Spillett- Sumner wrote the book while awaiting the birth of her own daughter.

David Alexander Robertson’s book On the Trapline was also inspired by a personal experience, a 2018 visit with his Dad to the trapline near Norway House where his father had spent part of his childhood.

I was very familiar with the story in On the Trapline because I had read it in detail in the account David Alexander Robertson provides in his memoir Blackwater. I had also listened to David describe it on his award-winning CBC podcast Kīwew and heard him talk about it when I attended several different writing workshops where he was the presenter. So I was very curious to see how the story which I had heard told only to adult audiences would be retold for children.

And I have to say it has been reimagined in a very lovely and meaningful way as a grandfather takes his grandson on a journey to the trapline where he spent his childhood. The grandson learns that his grandfather slept in a tent with his family and chopped wood. They ate Saskatoon berries and caught muskrat. I loved the way Swampy Cree words were integrated into the text so children could learn them in a natural way.

Julie Flett the illustrator of On the Trapline creates such a peaceful and gentle mood for the story, washing the pages in greens and browns and blacks and whites with the occasional splash of colour. She and David Robertson worked together previously on the Governor-General award-winning book When We Were Alone and the way their books are enriched by both of their respective talents is clearly evident again. It is no wonder On the Trapline has received starred reviews from such prestigious sources as Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews and Hornbook.

Both David and Julie have dedicated their contributions to the book to their fathers who passed away recently. Could there be a more perfect gift for Father’s Day than this book?

I have been honoured and humbled to have my novel on the same list as these two wondrous stories. I will be purchasing multiple copies of both for gifts now that I’ve read them. You will want to do that too.

Other posts………

A Very Personal Story

Bold and Beautiful

I Just Won a Cache of Great Children’s Books

1 Comment

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One response to “Two Breathtakingly Beautiful Books

  1. Pingback: My Grandsons Teach Me About National Reconciliation Day | What Next?

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