Sunday, February 27, 2011

Little Chief and Mighty Gopher: The Pemmican Frenzy

Not long ago, I had the good fortune to attend a conference called Telling Stories: Representing Difference/Different Representations at the University of Saskatchewan. I was introduced to the works of some wonderful Canadian authors and had an opportunity meet them, hear their stories and preview their work. One of the books I picked up was Little Chief and Mighty Gopher: The Pemmican Frenzy by Victor Lethbridge. 
Little Chief and Mighty Gopher: The Pemmican Frenzy
Author: Victor Lethbridge
Illustrator: Ben Crane
Storyteller Media and Tatanka Productions
ISBN: 978-0-9866738-0-1

This is the story of a lonely aboriginal boy named Snow Cloud who has no friends. Snow Cloud limps and he struggles to keep up with the other kids who sometimes make fun of him.  Snow Cloud finds a friend in Mighty Gopher; however, unbeknownst to Snow Cloud, Mighty Gopher follows him home, and that is where he has the chance to taste pemmican made by Snow Cloud's mother. The combination of gophers and pemmican soon leads to chaos in the tipi camp, and it is Snow Cloud who helps to restore harmony, balance and tranquility to the camp.

I liked this story for numerous reasons. I am always searching for good picture books with Aboriginal content. This is a story that reflects Aboriginal values and has a loveable Aboriginal hero. Children will be able to relate to the main character. They will enjoy the relationship he has with the animals, and they will also enjoy the humour in the story. Adults will enjoy the opportunity to talk about the big ideas and  the values present in the story. While I think the book will find its greatest audience with the K-3 crowd, it's a good book to send to any class studying Plains Indians as the book includes information about the Lakota Sioux, Lakota traditions, pemmican and a list of Cree, Blackfoot and Lakota Sioux words with their translations.

Illustrator Ben Crane is an Albertan who is both a musician and an artist. His illustrations for this book have a comic quality to them which makes the characters, particularly Snow Cloud, even more loveable. However, it is important to note that some have questioned the caricature nature of the pictures and wondered whether they were appropriate. Personally, I feel it would be different if this were the only image of aboriginal people that students had. Those of Aboriginal descent to whom I have shown the book, agree.

Author Victor Lethbridge is multi-talented. A descendent of Chief Sitting Bull's original band and a member of Wood Mountain Lakota First Nation, Lethbridge is a musician, storyteller and motivational speaker. This book was written and produced to help support prevention workshops done through Victor's Tatanka Productions. Included with this picture book is a CD with a narrated version of the story as well as an accompanying song written by the author and his wife. As I listen to the song, I think it will appeal most to the younger Pre-K-1 students.
Little Chief and Mighty Gopher: The Pemmican Frenzy is ato any library.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Tracy,

    Little Chief and Mighty Gopher is one of the nominees for the 2012 Shining Willow Award. We think it is one of the 10 best Canadian picture books of the year!

    Ruth Garnett
    President, SYRCA The Willow Awards