Prather’s Pick: A book with a joyful message
I was first drawn to “Birdsong,” this week’s picture book by the cover illustration of geese flying overhead. It made me think of the spring birds that are around here right now, signaling a not-too-far-away spring season when geese will be flying over. It turns out that “Birdsong” is lot more, with wonderful messages about nature and the arts and, perhaps more important, about inter-generational friendship.
“Birdsong,” for children, was written and illustrated by Julie Flett, a Cree-Metis author, illustrator, and artist. The book is published by Greystone Kids (2019).
The book is divided into seasons. It begins in the spring when Katherena, a young girl; her mother; and Oho, their dog (whose name means “Owl” in Cree), are leaving their home by the sea. Already the girl misses her relatives and the tree outside her bedroom window.
They drive for a long time through the country, over the mountains, and alongside rivers. They stop for a lone coyote crossing the road. Finally they reach their new home in the country. It is a house overlooking a field that is covered by snowdrops, small white flowers. There are two trees around the house. Nearby is another house, owned by an elderly woman named Agnes.
At first their new home seems strange to Katherena. The stairs creak. Katherena doesn’t feel comfortable in her new room. Even though she loves to draw, Katherena doesn’t feel like doing it right now.
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Then it’s summer. There are plenty of bird sounds. Katherena spends time outside. One day she notices that Agnes is working out in her yard. She goes over to visit. Agnes shows the girl the objects that she makes from clay—a lot of different things, including birds and flowers. Suddenly, Katherena wants to start drawing again. Agnes and Katherena share their passions.
Katherena and her dog visit Agnes all summer and fall. When winter arrives, Agnes is growing weaker. Her daughter comes to stay with her awhile. Katherena and her mother make enough salmon stew to share with Agnes and her daughter. Agnes sends Katherena home with snowdrop bulbs to plant next year.
This is a gentle, touching book. The story includes some Cree words and a short glossary in the beginning of the book as to the words’ meanings and pronunciations.
Julie Flett has received many awards for her works, including the Governor General’s Library Award and the American Indian Association Award.
This week’s book costs $17.95 in hardcover. It can also be found in the children’s room in the Craig branch of the Moffat County Libraries.
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