Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Review - SkySisters


by Jan Bourdeau Waboose
illustrated by Brian Deines
Date: 2000
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: library

Two Ojibway sisters set off across the frozen north country to see the SkySpirits' midnight dance. It isn't easy for the younger sister to be silent, but gradually she begins to treasure the stillness and the wonderful experiences it brings. After an exhilarating walk and patient waiting, the girls are rewarded by the arrival of the SkySpirits --- the northern lights --- dancing and shimmering in the night sky. This powerful story, with its stunning illustrations, captures the chill of a northern night, the warmth of the family circle and the radiance of a child's wonder.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I saw this book in a batch of new e-books that our library got, and picked it up because of that cover. Sadly, while the illustrations didn't disappoint, the story very much did.

This is a story narrated by Alex, the younger of two sisters. They bundle up in their parkas, scarves, and hats, and are released into the night by their mother. They want to see the SkySpirits, so they head up to Coyote Hill. In the dark. By themselves. Where they encounter wild animals and try to engage with coyotes.

Now, I don't have kids, but this set off all sorts of alarm bells for me. Maybe it's a cultural thing. Maybe it's just that this book is over 20 years old. But it just doesn't seem right that two little girls would be allowed out by themselves into the freezing cold darkness like this. I get that it's supposed to be about the sisters, but I would've felt a lot better about the whole storyline if there had been an adult present.

That said, the illustrations are gorgeous. They're charming, luminous, and beautiful, bringing to life the beauty of the northern night.

So... I'm about conflicted about recommending this. The story is kind of problematic from a child-welfare point of view. But the illustrations are not to be missed. Perhaps this could work with some sort of discussion about the potential danger the girls were in. Otherwise, it might be best to just peruse it for the visuals and skip the story.

Premise: 3/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 4/5
Illustrations: 5/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall: 3.67 out of 5

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