Lii Yiiboo Nayaapiwak lii Swer: L’alfabet di Michif / Owls See Clearly at Night: A Michif Alphabet

Over the past few days, I have been reading (and participating) in some interesting discussions about matters of representation and Othering. Malinda Lo’s posts on diversity in YA keep popping up, I’ve been listening to some interesting observations about systematic oppression over coffee, and then Nafiza goes and makes that thought-provoking post on Wednesday

Basically, it got me thinking about the kinds of books I would have wanted to encounter as a child, and the kind of books I would give for my young cousins, and well, should it come to that, the kinds of stories I would like my own kids a new generation to hear.

Which got me thinking about Julie Flett’s Lii Yiiboo Nayaapiwak lii Swer: L’alfabet di Michif / Owls See Clearly at Night: A Michif Alphabet.

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Julie Flett, who I have had the honour of seeing live, is a soft-spoken person with loud ideas. It is obvious from her work that she cares about how and why she constructs meaning out of pictures. I mean, just look at her other books and the projects she has chosen to work on:

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A young boy spends a summer day picking wild blueberries with his grandmother in this new beautiful picture book by Julie Flett. Exploring the important tradition of berry-picking for Indigenous Peoples, it includes some Cree words. [X]

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Richard Van Camp, internationally renowned storyteller and bestselling author of the hugely successful Welcome Song for Baby: A Lullaby for Newborns, has partnered with talented illustrator Julie Flett to create a tender board book for babies and toddlers that honors the child in everyone. With its delightful contemporary illustrations, Little You is perfect to be shared, read or sung to all the little people in your life–and the new little ones on the way! [X

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An adventure begins when Zoe finds a lone fawn in the forest and helps search for its mother. But who could the mother be? A bunny? A fish? Join Zoe and her father as they encounter many woodland animals and learn their Native names along the way.

The tale is simple yet charming. Zoe’s inquisitive nature is endearing, as is her father’s gentle patience. And as Zoe encounters various animals, their Okanagan (Syilx) names appear in the text. These Okanagan words add to the educational value of the story, but they do not interrupt the flow of the narrative for non-Okanagan readers. [X]

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This is an endearing story of a young Aboriginal foster child who is given a special gift by his foster mother. Her gift of warmth and thoughtfulness helps her young foster children by encouraging self-esteem, acceptance and love. Written as a simple story, it speaks of a positive foster experience. [X]

As for Lii Yiiboo Nayaapiwak lii Swer: L’alfabet di Michif / Owls See Clearly at Night: A Michif Alphabet, can we just talk about how simple a concept it is? I mean, it’s an alphabet book with words from the Michif language (a blend of French and Cree spoken by the Métis people), plus English translations …

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that work like poetry with the illustrations …

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But the execution is (obviously) elegant beyond words.

I wish I could say there were more books like this one, that there were more generous and intelligent writers/illustrators like Flett, and more conscientious publishers like Simply Read- but the thing is, there aren’t enough. Which is why I needed to make this post. It is a book that speaks many languages and it doesn’t matter if you don’t speak one or the other, because the illustrations are just as rich. I would even go so far as to say that [FLUFF AHEAD!] there is no shame in sounding out words that don’t quite trip off your tongue, because reading new things is kind of like hugging someone new. It feels odd at first but the more you do it the more it feels like that is what your arms are meant to do. And when you step apart you feel like you know them better and appreciate them for their differences.

I could go on and on with that analogy because hugs are just awesome, but really I should get back to the point (that I’m pretty sure I’ve made in an older post) i.e. read widely and read a lot.

It’s good for the soul.

And also, probably, if you ever want to have a conversation with someone different from you- and let’s face it there’s only one of you, you special snowflake, so do the math.