Kirkus Reviews QR Code
ON THE TRAPLINE by David A.  Robertson Kirkus Star


by David A. Robertson ; illustrated by Julie Flett

Pub Date: May 4th, 2021
ISBN: 978-0-7352-6668-1
Publisher: Tundra Books

A Swampy Cree grandfather shows his grandson what it means to be connected to family and the land.

Moshom takes his grandson, the narrator, on a long journey to visit his boyhood home. He wants his grandson to see his family’s trapline, “where people hunt animals and live off the land.” To get there, they fly on a plane and go to a small house beside a big lake. “This is where we lived after we left the trapline.” They walk through a forest and see an old school building. “Most of the kids only spoke Cree, but at the school all of us had to talk and learn in English.” They travel in a small motorboat to an island, where “Moshom’s eyes light up.” He says, “That’s my trapline.” There are beaver dams and eagles and rock paintings. Moshom tells how everyone “slept in one big tent, so they could keep warm at night,” how even the youngest children had chores, and everyone shared the work. He tells how they caught muskrats, ate the meat, and sold the pelts “to buy…things you couldn’t get on the trapline.” Before leaving the island, the boy holds Moshom’s hand. His grandpa is quiet. “Kiskisiw means ‘he remembers.’ ” Swampy Cree words and their definitions conclude each page, summing up its themes. Robertson’s text is as spare as Flett’s artwork, leaving plenty of space for readers to feel the emotions evoked by both. (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-16-inch double-page spreads viewed at 51.6% of actual size.)

The illustrations’ muted colors and the poetic rhythm of the words slow the world down for remembering.

(author’s note, illustrator’s note, glossary) (Picture book. 5-10)