Little Wolf covered her eyes. Without even looking, she knew what was happening. Wherever a serpent had been speared, a rocky, ridge-like scar appeared on the human who had wounded it.
As the serpents vanished, the scars stayed behind on the people as reminders of what had happened to them when their fear controlled them.
Only Little Wolf was unscarred. Because she had remained calm, she was rewarded. The Creator gave the tips of her long hair a shimmering glow, the same clouds as the inside of an abalone shell!
Abalone Woman, another fantastic book from Teoni Spathelfer, is again illustrated by Natassia Davies. In this story, Little Wolf goes to bed after spending time thinking about the racism and residential school experiences that her mother, White Raven, had endured and which were the focus of White Raven (www.cmreviews.ca/node/2660). In this newest offering, Little Wolf has a dream in which people were collecting food from a beach. While the people are studying a beautiful starfish, the beach is descended upon by serpents. The people are filled with fear and attack and kill the serpents despite Little Wolf’s efforts to have them stop and see that these creatures are also children of the Creator, just like them. The serpents revive and charge at the people. Any human that had attacked a serpent wound up with physical scars from the serpents, scars which remained even after the serpents disappeared. Only Little Wolf was unharmed, but the tips of her hair became coloured. There was a feast held at the big house, and Little Wolf was asked to welcome strange visitors to the big house. Little Wolf was recognized as the one who did not show fear at the creatures and who saw the Creator’s beauty. At this celebration in the big-house, Little Wolf was given a new name, Abalone Woman. Once she wakes up from this dream, Little Wolf notices that she has the same bracelet she was given in her dream, but, this time, it is on her wrist! Abalone Woman happily visited her child’s class to talk about the difficult subject of racism and taught the students to be proud of their heritage and culture in the hope of helping these children grow up with an attitude of appreciation and acceptance of differences.
There is something magical about Teoni Spathelfer’s stories. Her stories are amazing in their ability to so simply share human traits to be kind and caring to others while also pointing out injustice and the path forward. Abalone Woman is challenging to read but also healing. To read these stories is to take a trip to the past that we don’t want to visit and to return to the present where we can make a difference. I cannot overstate how important these stories and illustrations are.
John Dryden is a teacher-librarian in the Cowichan Valley, British Columbia.