I go to school.
According to information of the book’s back cover, “Pauline Apetagon is a Cree and Nursery teacher at Jack River School in Norway House Cree Nation, Manitoba.” This grandmother of two has produced a most useful bilingual (Cree and English) picture book for children who are about to go to school for the first time. The simple text is first presented in Cree at the top of each page, and then its English equivalent is found at the bottom of the page. In between is a full-colour photograph that visually represents the page’s text. For example, the photo accompanying the text in the excerpt above shows a number of children boarding a yellow school bus. With the exception of the sentence-long text on the opening page (See Excerpt), the text on the remainder of the pages is limited to just a single word.
In Entawi Kiskinomakawiyan, children are introduced to some of the adults they might encounter at the school (principal, teacher, educational assistant, janitor) as well as various school spaces, such as the classroom, library and gym. Photos of children show them engaging in typical school activities, like clambering on playground structures during “recess”, “writing” on “paper” using a “pencil”, reading a “book” or “coloring”.
The last activity, “masinastewin/colouring”, sees the book heading in a new direction as Apetagon first introduces the word “masinastehikan/crayon” (accompanied by a photograph of a pile of crayons) before using four of the book’s final five pages to introduce readers to the Cree words for eight colours, two per page (yellow, red, orange, black, blue, green, purple and brown).
The closing page is a “Glossary of Cree Words” that repeats the book’s text. For those who don’t speak Cree, a pronunciation guide would have been a useful addition.
Though Entawi Kiskinomakawiyan was created as an “instructional tool for Cree language teachers and parents who would like to help their children learn the Cree language”, its contents would appeal to any child who is about to enter the world of formal schooling, and the book might serve as a good discussion starter between child and parent.
Dave Jenkinson, CM’s editor, lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba.