Raven, Rabbit, Deer
Raven, Rabbit, Deer
A big bird with black feathers stands on the back of a bench.
“Raven,” says Grandpa. “Gaagaagi.”
Raven says, “Hello. Hello.”
Raven sounds like the brook in summertime.
My boots make deep holes in the snow.
I shake the prickly hand of a tree.
The snow shower tickles my face and creeps cold down my neck.
Raven, Rabbit, Deer tells a sweet, intergenerational story through the eyes of a young Indigenous boy. He spends a cozy winter afternoon with his dear grandfather, taking a walk in the snow, getting to know the animal friends, and learning about their names in the English and Ojibwemowin languages. Grandpa passes his wisdom of nature, animals, and land to the boy via simple conversations while the boy demonstrates curiosity and playful naughtiness in the outdoor play. The youngster’s vitality and the elder’s serenity form a vibrant contrast that coexists with an incomparable harmony. We all can relate to this unique combination that can almost exclusively be found in a grandparents-children relationship.
When Grandpa introduces the forest friends in their heritage language, Ojibwemowin, the grandson not only acquires a different set of vocabulary but also gains a new lens to see his surroundings. Language holds deeper value way beyond words and sentences. It is closely tied to one’s cultural identity, world view, and more importantly, a sense of belonging. Through the walk down a forest trail, Grandpa connects the young boy with a larger community in a kind and intuitive manner.
I enjoyed the almost childish and innocent illustrations by Jennifer Faria. The soft lines and gentle colours connect the reader (or viewer) to the tender inside the world of the young boy. The illustrations align perfectly with author Sue Farrell Holler’s words and invite us to walk with the boy and his grandpa on that glorious winter afternoon. Finally, the pictures quiet down with less movement to take in visually and welcome us to a warm ending, with a loving cuddle by the fireplace.
Raven, Rabbit, Deer serves as a window for Indigenous children to see themselves and their families in the story. It also serves as a window for everyone in the classroom to learn about Indigenous ways of knowing and being. There is a thoughtful glossary with pictures as well to teach readers the proper pronunciations of raven, rabbit, and deer in Ojibwemowin. If you are considering setting up a multicultural and multilingual classroom library, I highly recommend adding this piece to your collection.
Emma Chen is a Ph.D. student with a research focus on immigrant children’s heritage language education at University of Saskatchewan.