Roogaroo Mickey

25 July 2014

Roogaroo Mickey
by Wilfred Burton
illustrated by Leah Marie Dorian
translated by Norman Fleury
Published by Gabriel Dumont Institute
Review by Jessica Bickford
$15.00 978-1-926795-12-6

Roogaroo Mickey, which is authored by Wilfred Burton and illustrated by Leah Marie Dorian, is an updated version of a story of the Roogaroo, which is a classic figure in Metis oral tradition. Mamayr tells Louis and Charlie a bedtime story about when she was a little girl and had an encounter with a big hairy beast of a Roogaroo. Roogaroos are like the Metis version of a werewolf, which combines the French Loup Garous and First Nations shapeshifters, which is all very helpfully explained in a little information section in the back of the book. The next morning Louis and Charlie fall asleep in the van while Mamayr drives them all to go get groceries, but Mamayr gets a fright when what should she see in the rear-view mirror but a pair of big hairy ears! Now, I won’t spoil the rest for you, but I will say that Roogaroo Mickey is just the right amount of scary for kids and is mixed with humour to take the edge off in the end.

The illustrations are a bit different from what you may have seen from Leah Marie Dorion before, as in this book she uses markers instead of her usual paint. It gives her bold and colourful artwork a bit of a softer, almost watercolour-like look that is really very beautiful, and just as visually rich as her other work. Her imagining of the Roogaroo itself is also really fun, and you can read in a little interview section in the back of the book what her inspiration was.

If there was ever a dream team for writing, illustrating and translating a Metis children’s book, Wilfred Burton, Leah Marie Dorion, and Norman Fleury are it. You’ll probably recognize their names as Wilfred is the acclaimed co-author of the “Fiddle Dancer” series, Leah is the author and illustrator of my personal favourite Relatives With Roots (among others), and Norman has translated them all into Michif. They are all individually excellent, but they’ve come together on “Roogaroo Mickey” to create a truly wonderful little story that is both culturally and visually vibrant. The book also includes an audio CD, containing both an English narration by Dorion and a Michif narration by Fleury.


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