Tâpwê and the Magic Hat
Tâpwê and the Magic Hat
Tâpwê gently unwrapped the bundle. Inside was something he had never seen before. At first he had no idea what it was. Then he saw that it was a strange-looking hat, like the feather headdresses the old chiefs wear, but smaller and kind of upside down. It was made out of feathers and woven porcupine quills. On the top were three little bluebirds and three baby grass snakes, who were pink and purple. At first Tâpwê thought they were toys; but then, believe it or not, they fluttered their little eyelashes and stretched. Tâpwê gasped.
“Kohkom! An chaa!” he said, rubbing his eyes in disbelief.
“It belonged to me when I was your age,” Kohkom said. “Go ahead and put it on”.
Tâpwê put on the hat. It felt funny and made him laugh, and when he did, the little creatures began twittering and bouncing up and down. That Magic Hat wiggled and whistled and chirped and sang!
From Canadian legend and Indigenous icon Buffy Sainte-Marie, Tâpwê and the Magic Hat is an endearing chapter book for young readers featuring themes of risk-taking, self-exploration, and family relationships. Accompanied by gray-scale pictures by both the author and illustrator Michelle Alynn Clement, this contemporary adventure takes from traditional trickster stories found in many Indigenous North American cultures to create a story that is both familiar and fresh.
Gifted a magical hat by his Kohkom with bluebirds and grass snakes that come to life, main character Tâpwê can’t wait to spend a week meeting his cousins on the other side of his prairie reserve. The adventure is all that he hoped for, including taking part in a powwow, sleeping in a tipi, and building new relationships with family and friends. But all the excitement and new experiences cause Tâpwê to forget his Kohkom’s words of warning: Watch out for tricksters!
Enter Wapos the Rabbit. Mischievous and silly, playful and strange, this man-sized furry friend creates chaos wherever he goes. For Tâpwê, this means getting his magical hat briefly stolen, thieving maple sugar treats, and hanging upside down playing possum and bat. Slowly but surely, Wapos garners all the attention, leaving the rest of Tâpwê’s pals pushed aside. As he grapples with the difference between right and wrong amidst the turbulence of this troublesome new friendship, Tâpwê begins to listen to his own intuition and gains a stronger sense of who he is and how he wants to lead his life.
With its important message for young readers about being yourself and learning to dance to the beat of your own heart, this lovely tale created by Buffy Sainte-Marie was inspired by Indigenous oral histories and traditions. The inclusion of a glossary of Cree words (with pronunciations) and an author’s note to parents and educators about Indigenous storytelling, Tâpwê and the Magic Hat offers an equally delightful and informative book cantering Indigenous voices and stories.
Amy Westbury is a teacher-librarian at Abbey Lane Public School in Oakville, Ontario.