cover image Shingebiss: An Ojibwe Legend

Shingebiss: An Ojibwe Legend

Nancy Van Laan. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-395-82745-1

In the ""way-back time"" of Ojibwe legend, Shingebiss, a merganser duck, dives for fish in Great Lake Superior. But during December's Spirit Moon, Winter Maker freezes the vast lake ""solid as stone,"" and the two engage in a battle of wills. In the end, Shingebiss's persistence and ingenuity triumph over the adversities of winter. Van Laan's (In a Circle Long Ago) lyric text flows like a soft drum beat and, although lengthy, wastes no words. Shingebiss embodies the human qualities of wisdom, patience and perseverance, as Bowen (Antler, Bear, Canoe) makes explicit with her closing portrait of two ice fishermen. The artist's rustic, spirited woodcuts appear within circular frames of thick, loose lines that give one the sense of peering through ice holes. Outside the frames she gives clues about the cycles of nature. In the introduction, Van Laan tells us the Ojibwe believe that ""every living thing imparts a sacred teaching."" Here, words and pictures resonate to leave readers with a lasting lesson of survival. Ages 4-8. (Aug.)