Reviews by Deborah Locke
A new children’s book, “The Dancers” by Thomas Peacock could be subtitled “Dancing With Your Heart.” The story is narrated by a little girl who tells the story of her auntie, an ogichidaquay (female warrior) who joins the Army. The auntie, deployed overseas, loses her legs when a truck she was in explodes after going over a bomb.
The loss of legs is especially poignant because Auntie and Mom were fancy shawl powwow dancers who according to the narrator, “danced like butterflies.”
Auntie returns home and after a long period of healing, adjusts to artificial legs and learns to dance again. When she returns to the dance arena for the first time during the Veteran’s honorary song, the crowd cheers and tears run down faces. Auntie dances with her new legs at the same time she dances with her heart.
You may have a few tears in your eyes, too, when reading this sweet story, beautifully illustrated by Jacqueline Paske Gill. Just the right amount of Ojibwe language is scattered throughout to teach the reader (and listener) a few new words. The story reflects the best of native culture: strong family ties, devotion to country, courage, the continuation of tradition, the recovery from setbacks, and the joy of community.
Author Thomas Peacock is a Fond du Lac Band enrollee, and lives in Red Cliff, Wisconsin and Duluth, Minnesota. He is a prolific writer whose books include the notable “Ojibwe Waasa Inaabidaa: We Look in All Directions”, “To Be Free”, “The Tao of Nookomis”, and “The Forever Sky”.
Illustrator Jacqueline Paske Gill has illustrated more than 20 books and wrote five of them. She lives in Wisconsin. Gill’s illustrations are as heartwarming as Peacock’s words. As with many good children’s picture books, you leave this one wishing it were longer, or wishing it were part of a series so you know there’s more to come.
The book is available from Amazon On Demand Publishing LLC.
Reservation dogs get top billing in a second children’s book by a Fond du Lac Band enrollee, Heather Brink. “Rez Dog,” illustrated by Jordan Rodgers, is the story of an unwanted and neglected dog that lived outside a reservation gas station. As you might expect, Rez Dog’s fate is a happy one as he evolves from neglected and isolated to beloved and cared for.
The path to a good life was strewn with obstacles. Rez Dog ate trash and badly needed a human family, carefully observing the behavior of the gas station customers in hopes of finding a good forever family. Rez Dog had little interest in noisy cars, smelly trucks, grumpy people and loud teenagers and big families. He knew that type. Now he sought the attention of quiet cars and friendly people.
Finally the right family came along in a pickup truck. A little girl, Sammy, and her mom decided with some reluctance to take Rez Dog home, which leads to a visit from Uncle who had agreed to give Rez Dog a bath. The family feeds and attends to the little Rez Dog who begins to flourish from the attention.
Finally, he gets a real name and is last seen seated by Sammy, watching the sun go down.
It’s a cute story with a happy ending. This is Brink’s first book. She lives in Arizona and writes part-time. Illustrator Jordan Rodgers is Lakota and a member of the Oglala Lakota Nation. She is a student at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.
“Rez Dog” was published this year by Black Bears and Blueberries Publishing: www.blackbearsandblueberries.com.