PEMMICAN WARS by Katherena Vermette


A Girl Called Echo, Vol. I
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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 15th, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-55379-678-7
Page count: 48pp
Publisher: HighWater Press
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2018


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