A sparse, beautifully drawn story about a teen discovering her heritage.

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PEMMICAN WARS

A GIRL CALLED ECHO, VOL. I

In this YA graphic novel, an alienated Métis girl learns about her people’s Canadian history.

Métis teenager Echo Desjardins finds herself living in a home away from her mother, attending a new school, and feeling completely lonely as a result. She daydreams in class and wanders the halls listening to a playlist of her mother’s old CDs. At home, she shuts herself up in her room. But when her history teacher begins to lecture about the Pemmican Wars of early 1800s Saskatchewan, Echo finds herself swept back to that time. She sees the Métis people following the bison with their mobile hunting camp, turning the animals’ meat into pemmican, which they sell to the Northwest Company in order to buy supplies for the winter. Echo meets a young girl named Marie, who introduces Echo to the rhythms of Métis life. She finally understands what her Métis heritage actually means. But the joys are short-lived, as conflicts between the Métis and their rivals in the Hudson Bay Company come to a bloody head. The tragic history of her people will help explain the difficulties of the Métis in Echo’s own time, including those of her mother and the teen herself. Accompanied by dazzling art by Henderson (A Blanket of Butterflies, 2017, etc.) and colorist Yaciuk (Fire Starters, 2016, etc.), this tale is a brilliant bit of time travel. Readers are swept back to 19th-century Saskatchewan as fully as Echo herself. Vermette’s (The Break, 2017, etc.) dialogue is sparse, offering a mostly visual, deeply contemplative juxtaposition of the present and the past. Echo’s eventual encounter with her mother (whose fate has been kept from readers up to that point) offers a powerful moment of connection that is both unexpected and affecting. “Are you…proud to be Métis?” Echo asks her, forcing her mother to admit, sheepishly: “I don’t really know much about it.” With this series opener, the author provides a bit more insight into what that means.

A sparse, beautifully drawn story about a teen discovering her heritage.

Pub Date: March 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-55379-678-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: HighWater Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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Bulky, balky, talky.

THE DA VINCI CODE

In an updated quest for the Holy Grail, the narrative pace remains stuck in slo-mo.

But is the Grail, in fact, holy? Turns out that’s a matter of perspective. If you’re a member of that most secret of clandestine societies, the Priory of Sion, you think yes. But if your heart belongs to the Roman Catholic Church, the Grail is more than just unholy, it’s downright subversive and terrifying. At least, so the story goes in this latest of Brown’s exhaustively researched, underimagined treatise-thrillers (Deception Point, 2001, etc.). When Harvard professor of symbology Robert Langdon—in Paris to deliver a lecture—has his sleep interrupted at two a.m., it’s to discover that the police suspect he’s a murderer, the victim none other than Jacques Saumière, esteemed curator of the Louvre. The evidence against Langdon could hardly be sketchier, but the cops feel huge pressure to make an arrest. And besides, they don’t particularly like Americans. Aided by the murdered man’s granddaughter, Langdon flees the flics to trudge the Grail-path along with pretty, persuasive Sophie, who’s driven by her own need to find answers. The game now afoot amounts to a scavenger hunt for the scholarly, clues supplied by the late curator, whose intent was to enlighten Sophie and bedevil her enemies. It’s not all that easy to identify these enemies. Are they emissaries from the Vatican, bent on foiling the Grail-seekers? From Opus Dei, the wayward, deeply conservative Catholic offshoot bent on foiling everybody? Or any one of a number of freelancers bent on a multifaceted array of private agendas? For that matter, what exactly is the Priory of Sion? What does it have to do with Leonardo? With Mary Magdalene? With (gulp) Walt Disney? By the time Sophie and Langdon reach home base, everything—well, at least more than enough—has been revealed.

Bulky, balky, talky.

Pub Date: March 18, 2003

ISBN: 0-385-50420-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2003

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This engrossing Indigenous tale remains a tribute to the missing and murdered and a clarion call to everyone else.

SURVIVING THE CITY

From the Debwe series

A debut YA graphic novel finds a teenager emotionally and then physically adrift as her home life worsens.

Miikwan and Dez are Indigenous Canadian teens. Miikwan, who is Anishinaabe, has lost her mother. Dez, who is Inninew, lives with her grandmother (or kokum). The girls are best friends—like sisters—who completed their yearlong Berry Fast together (which teaches girls entering womanhood patience). One day, Dez learns that her diabetic kokum might need to have her foot removed. Further, Dez would have to live in a group home. In school, the girls choose to present their Berry Fast for a class Heritage Project. Before starting work on the project, they visit the city mall, where Miikwan’s mom “always used to tell me to be careful.” When the girls notice the predatory stares of older men, they leave and visit the Forks historical area. The last time they were there, they attended a rally for No More Stolen Sisters. A memorial sculpture dedicated to missing women reminds Miikwan of her own beautiful mother, whose spirit still guides her. Later, Dez returns home only to see through the window that a social worker speaks with her kokum. Devastated, she wanders into a park. Her cellphone dies, and she curls up on a bench as night falls. In this harrowing but hopeful tale, illustrator Donovan (The Sockeye Mother, 2017) and author Spillett spotlight the problem of “Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two-Spirit People.” While this is a global issue, the graphic novel focuses on the Winnipeg area and highlights for its target audience situations that may pose risk. While Miikwan travels alone on a bus or in the city, readers see both benign and ghoulish spirits present. Spillett knows when to hold dialogue back and allow Donovan’s superb facial expressions to carry the moment, as when Dez spots the social worker in her home. Radiant colors and texting between characters should draw teens into the story, which simply and effectively showcases the need for community solutions to society’s worst ills.

This engrossing Indigenous tale remains a tribute to the missing and murdered and a clarion call to everyone else.

Pub Date: March 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-55379-756-2

Page Count: 56

Publisher: HighWater Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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