Relatives With Roots

11 January 2012

Relatives With Roots: A Story About Métis Women’s Connection to the Land
by Leah Marie Dorion
translated by Rita Flamand
Published by The Gabriel Dumont Institute
Review by Jessica Bickford

Leah Dorion has given her all to Relatives With Roots, being the writer, illustrator, and also lending her voice to the English audio narration. Rita Flamand, a Métis elder, provides Michif-Cree translations and narrates the Michif audio track which is fascinating to listen to, as I have rarely heard the Métis language spoken.

This is a lovely story about a Grandmother and her Granddaughter leaving their bush camp to go out and pick medicine, all while learning about Métis traditions. It focuses on the harmony that exists in Métis tradition between people and the earth, specifically how respect must be given to our “relatives with roots”. It includes a couple of little stories about Wisakechak (the Cree trickster) that help to further the ancestral teachings that this book is based on.

The story of Relatives With Roots is both educational and endearing, but for me, the best part was the illustrations. This is the most beautiful picture book I have ever seen. Dorion’s paintings are alive with colour, authenticity, and a timeless simplicity that will delight children and amaze adults. Every page has a gorgeous painting, some depicting the events of the story, others showing traditional Métis motifs such as the infinity symbol which represents the everlasting nature of the Métis people and their traditions, and others are pretty patterns that create a background for the text.

Anyone can appreciate this book, not just those of Métis heritage. It is a bright, enchanting book with a heartfelt story about tradition and family, with some of the best paintings you will ever find outside of a gallery.


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