Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Picture Books - Thanks to the Animals

Thanks to the Animals by Allen Sockabasin 2005

I’m always on the lookout for culturally enriched books mostly out of my own desire to learn more about others, plus it adds variety in reading. When I found Thanks to the Animals on my library’s shelf I was a bit surprised. The main reason is it seems to be a local interest type book usual found just in local or regional bookstores. The story is told by a Passamaquoddy storyteller and is set in the formerly occupied tribal area of Maine and New Brunswick, Canada.

The story “tells” us about a family that is breaking down its summer home and heading to the north for the winter. As the family loads up its sizeable sled with the summer harvest and logs from its home, the children are also being readied in their travel gear. Most of the family sleeps on the journey, but baby Zoo Sap stays awake and soon falls off the sled. Unaware, the others continue to sleep and do not hear the baby’s cries. However, the woodland animals do and gather to protect and keep the baby warm. Once the family reaches their winter home site, they notice baby Zoo Sap missing. Father Joo Tum goes in search by retracing their journey. He then finds a mound of what looks like snow topped with an Eagle that speaks to him. There he finds the baby in the middle of a large group of animals safe and sound. Father then individual thanks all the animals for saving his son.

The story itself has a nice easy flow to it, but lacks the usual ending lesson or typical conclusion. It has more of symbolism conclusion regarding nature, I think. But, it is a culturally different tale, so I don’t think we can measure it by a common warm fuzzy wrap up, which it does sort of have. The artwork by Rebekah Raye is somewhat unusual in that it ranges from what seems like an artist's initial sketches to completed illustrations. Many of the animals are very charming and have natural warmth in their expressions of camaraderie. However, most of the illustrations of the family are more “sketchish” like except for a few. Definitely a tale to consider, but may leave the reader or listener pondering with a "is that all feeling".

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