David Bouchard, Author, Dave Bouchard, Author, Allen Sapp, Illustrator , illus. by Allen Sapp. Raincoast $14.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-55192-559-2

Executed over a 17-year period, paintings by Cree elder Sapp (I Heard the Drums) inspire this often confusing verse narrative in which a Native American boy pays tribute to his Nokum (grandma). On the opening page, Bouchard (Qu' Appelle) addresses readers in two stanzas of rhyme ("Listen to the beating drum/ It tells a hundred stories"). Four lines of smaller gray type run along the bottom of the same page, using a single word to suggest drum beats ("BOOM boom boom boom" repeats seven times). Other pages pair narrative with chant instead of drum beat ("HI hey hey hey..."). The speaker recalls how his grandmother taught him to value his heritage; this part is clear, but as Bouchard fluctuates among direct address, quotes from Nokum and descriptions of a pow-wow, the structure is somewhat obscure (it seems that the speaker, now grown, is recalling preparations for his first pow-wow). The paintings depict scenes of Sapp's boyhood on a reservation in Saskatchewan. Thickly applied paint daubs and lines richly texture canvases that portray pow-wow scenes: a bright red shirt, Nokum's white braids or the vivid, blue sky punctuate the mostly earthy hues for a striking contrast. However, additional illustrations of Nokum (usually with her grandson at her side) feeding chickens or solemnly peeling potatoes may compound readers' difficulty in ascertaining the story's time and place. Ages 6-up. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 04/07/2003
Release date: 03/01/2003
Hardcover - 32 pages - 978-0-88995-500-4
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