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From the Publisher:
In this introduction to the Anishinaabe tradition of totem animals, young children explain why they identify with different creatures such as a deer, beaver or moose. Delightful illustrations show the children wearing masks representing their chosen animal, while the few lines of text on each page work as a series of simple poems throughout the book.
In a brief author’s note, Danielle Daniel explains the importance of totem animals in Anishinaabe culture and how they can also act as animal guides for young children seeking to understand themselves and others.
This beautiful (though unusual) and poetic hardcover book is comprised of two-page spreads that feature a gorgeous acrylic illustration of a child wearing a mask/features of an animal. The other side contains a verse of the poem describing the child feeling like the animal using descriptive words to portray traits of that animal. Especially helpful is the list at the back describing totem animals and their meanings, along with an informative note from the author that further describes the meaning and importance of totem animals in the Anishinaabe tradition. It concludes with the statement “Totem animals remind us that all living organisims are part of the same cycle of life”. This is the beauty of this small book – beyond the obvious lesson about a First Nations/Indigenous tradition, it is a vehicle to use with children to assist them to connect to the animal world and identify parts of themselves and their behaviours that may be similar to the characteristics we most associate with certain animals. What a great introduction to self-reflection and thinking about connections to nature for even the youngest readers!
I have read this aloud with my three year old several times now. She LOVES the bright illustrations and that she can quickly identify each animal totem. We have acted out (tried to move like, and adopt a body stance like) each animal based both on what she already knows about the animal (pre-knowledge) and what traits are described in the short verse on each page. The text uses some “juicy” words that have been fun for her to learn to pronounce – so the vocabulary learning has been great, too. As my kids are of Métis First Nations heritage, books such as this are critical in their understanding of their culture and to remind all of us of our unbreakable connections to nature.
- brightly coloured and easily identifiable illustrations
- mix of genders for the children
- short, yet very descriptive verses about the totem animal
- approachable method of describing something so sacred
- list of totem animals and note from the author at the back of the book gives wonderful context for further understanding and extensions
Why/How Use it with kids:
- use it as an action book to get kids to act out the animals
- use it as an opportunity for prediction and testing knowledge of the traits of animals (what do they think the animal represents? What traits would it have? Why?) – scaffold appropriately for age range
- discuss and have kids create an image or mask or other representation of who they think their totem animal might be. Discuss why? What traits to they admire or share or most identify with? Could/would this shift with mood or age for them?