Children's Books

GRANDFATHER BEAR: A STORY TOLD IN CREE, Illustrated by Donna Cameron. Translated by Della Owens and Harriet Landry. Moberly Lake: Twin Sisters Publishing Co. 42p. ISBN 0-9696509-2-2pa. CCIP. DDC 398.2'09711'0452974446. (Ages 6-10)

According to the foreword, the Cree people believe that each person has a special purpose on earth, and that some of us are given nature spirit power from "our animal brothers or other nature relatives--such as the cloud people." This book tells the story of a young girl who is taken from her family to live with her Grandfather Bear for a year, so that she can receive his powers and learn his healing ways. Her parents look for her desperately throughout the year, and refuse to leave the camp where they lost her. Finally, Grandfather Bear decides she has learned enough, and allows her father to find them, sacrificing himself in the process so that the family will have meat.

Grandfather Bear is a translation of an oral Cree legend told by Madeline Davis, Sr., a resident of Moberly Lake, B.C. This project is significant in a number of ways: the author, editorial team, translators, and illustrator are all women with strong ties to the Native community in Moberly Lake; it is one of the first books published by Twin Sisters, a new publishing company devoted to that community; the protagonist of the story is a young woman who is given, and accepts, power that she can put to use for her people; and, finally, it's a darn good book! Davis's simple folk tale resonates with magic and meaningful symbolism. Grandfather Bear has a magic glove that he throws between his underground tipi and the outside world for security. When he dies, he orders that his hands and wrists be cut from his body, with the left hand (the one with healing power) to be hung on a tree away from the body. As he teaches the girl, everything they need--the powers, strength, and even food--flows into them from the outside world. The language used to describe Grandfather Bear's act of self-sacrifice is reminiscent of biblical language describing the resurrection of Christ: "He told the young girl not to worry about him being killed. He would be back in four days. He would be alive again." The story, a metaphor for self-sacrifice for the good of the people, demonstrates the importance of balance with, and connection to, nature and its forces.

Cameron's black-and-white drawings are clear and moving; the cover illustration of an old man's face inside a bear inside a bear paw print is especially powerful. Highly recommended. Reviewed by Kelly L. Green Kelly L. Green

File: ch31

Native American BOOKS, text and graphics copyright Paula Giese, 1996

Last Updated: Thursday, March 14, 1996 - 2:14:49 PM