Mistasiniy

22 March 2017

Mistasinîy: Buffalo Rubbing Stone
by Mary Harelkin Bishop
Illustrated by Heaven Starr
Published by DriverWorks Ink
Review by Michelle Shaw
$14.95 ISBN 978-1-927570-32-6

If you loved Mary Harelkin Bishop’s Seeds of Hope: A Prairie Story you’ve no doubt been waiting for it’s companion book with eager anticipation. Bishop has a way of painting characters that are memorable and her style of writing easily draws the reader into the story. You’re on chapter two before you know it!

This is a story that stayed with me. It snuck into my brain and left me pondering for days.

The basic plot involves two young boys who are assigned a Canadian heritage project by their Grade 6 teacher. Danny discovers his great great grandmother’s diary of arriving in Canada and the struggles the family endured as they established their farm. Zach though is First Nations. While the rest of the class has family that arrived in Canada at some point, his family has always been a part of the land. What about his family’s heritage? Doesn’t it count? Zach becomes very angry and confused. To complicate the story even further, the boys have a long history of antagonism. They’ve tried, on the whole, to avoid each other over the past few years but now their new teacher (who has no idea of their volatile feelings for each other) assigns them as study partners on the heritage project.

The book is set in rural Saskatchewan and gives a day-in-the-life glimpse as to what it’s like to grow up in a small town. Danny, who lives on the family farm just outside of town, is caught up in helping his family with their bumper harvest (it’s the first year Danny is considered old enough to drive the trucks and he is beyond excited!). Zach lives with his mom in a small rental house near the reserve where his grandparents live. Zach is learning drumming from his Mósom (his grandfather) and wants to learn to be a Grass Dancer.

At the heart of the story is the mistasinîy, a very large sacred stone to Zach’s people, the Cree. As Zach’s mósom describes it, “our people had a place to go when they were feeling angry or sad or when they were celebrating and giving thanks”. But, he says, it’s now lost, gone. Legend has it that it was blown up many years before when the settlers were breaking up the land. The mistasinîy provides a constant thread throughout the book in the lives of Zach and Danny and their families.

Although, the book is aimed at ages 10 and up I have no doubt that it will be enjoyed by readers of all ages.

The book is illustrated by Heaven Starr, a Dakota Cree woman who lives on Starblanket First Nation in east central Saskatchewan. Mary Harelkim Bishop is best known as the author of the bestselling Tunnels of Moose Jaw adventure series.

THE BOOK IS AVAILABLE AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE OR FROM WWW.SKBOOKS.COM

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