An unnamed Cree boy learns from an elder master carver, a stray dog, and a porcupine.
A stray dog wanders into his family’s orbit and stays, so the boy and his brother call her Atim, the Cree word for dog. It’s hunting season. Last year the narrator realized he could not kill animals, but he is reluctant to tell his family. On his birthday, however, cousin Stan thoughtfully gives him a camera mounted on a gunstock so the boy can hunt in a different way. When Atim and the boy go hunting, they spy a porcupine up a tree. Atim startles it, and the porcupine replies in quills. With everybody’s help, the quills in Atim’s snout are removed, but the boy’s brother jeers at him for not protecting the dog with a real gun. Soon, Lindy, a master stone carver, visits and sees potential in the boy’s carvings, inviting the lad to spend a day with other stone artists, from whom the boy learns carving techniques and lessons about the porcupine. This is the second book in Pinkney’s Soapstone Signs series. Not a Cree by birth, Pinkney spent years as a development consultant near the Cree Nation. The book portrays a modern Cree family and includes Cree vocabulary, but his choice not to give his protagonist a name is a puzzling if not troubling one that may well confuse his readers.
A quiet tale about a sensitive soul. (Fiction. 7-9)