Every time I read one of Mary Harelkin Bishop’s books I learn something new. As a relative newcomer to Canada and Saskatchewan, I’ve heard the words, “We recognize that we are standing on Treaty 6 Territory and the Homeland of the Métis…” many times without really knowing what that meant. Now, thanks to Bishop’s latest book, Skye Bird and the Eagle Feather, I have a vivid picture in my mind.
Bishop’s new book introduces us to Skye Bird, a Grade 6 student starting the new school year in a “big, shiny, new school across town”. Her old school, a local school which has recently closed, was “warm and inviting”. Although it was small, it was a vibrant community where different cultures were celebrated and shared. But Skye’s new school seems nothing like that and she feels very lost and out of place. Her little sister Cheyenne can’t find her special books in the school library and when Skye asks the librarian where to find books about Cree people or the Métis, she’s told that they don’t have very much. The school librarian explains that “Sometimes those books are upsetting to readers, so we don’t keep them in this library. We don’t want to upset anyone.”
Skye’s older brother Sage seems to be thoroughly enjoying the new school though. He’s even joined the football club. He keeps telling Skye to fit in and be like everyone else. But Skye simply can’t. Then one night she has a vision. An old woman, a Okômâw (a great grandmother) visits her and, over subsequent nights, guides her on a series of experiential journeys into the past. Slowly Skye begins to figure out what she needs to do to make things right.
As I read the book I had no idea how it was going to end. Clearly it would end well (it is a children’s book, after all), but how? Some of the characters were so emotionally rigid that I couldn’t see how they could change without stepping out of character. But somehow Bishop manages to work a story miracle.
The book is a great way for children to discover the history that is all around them and the significant part that each of us plays in our world. Skye Bird and the Eagle Feather is classified as juvenile fiction and is aimed at children from the ages of 10 and up.
Mary Harelkin Bishop is a much-loved Saskatchewan author of children’s fiction. She’s written the best-selling Tunnels of Moose Jaw Adventures books; the award-winning Mistasinîy: Buffalo Rubbing Stone; Seeds of Hope: A Prairie Story; as well as Gina’s Wheels. Skye Bird and the Eagle Feather is illustrated by Heaven Starr, a Dakota Cree artist who lives on Starblanket First Nation in east central Saskatchewan.
THIS BOOK IS AVAILABLE AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE OR FROM WWW.SKBOOKS.COM.