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SHI-SHI-ETKO by Nicola I. Campbell Kirkus Star


by Nicola I. Campbell & illustrated by Kim LaFave

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2005
ISBN: 0-88899-659-4
Publisher: Groundwood

A young Native American child prepares to leave home and family for compulsory Indian School in this quietly poetic Canadian import. On each of her last three days, Shi-shi-etko (“She Loves To Play In The Water”) goes out with a different adult to gather impressions of her people’s ways and the natural world around her: standing in a creek, listening to her mother singing, for instance, she “memorized each shiny rock, / the sand beneath her feet, / crayfish and minnows and tadpoles.” On succeeding days she does the same with her father and her Yayah (grandmother), promising herself that she will not forget. Using a palette of saturated blues and rich autumnal reds and golds, LaFave places a child in modern dress (as the author explains in a foreword, the last Indian boarding school in Canada did not close until 1984) within landscapes whose strong, curving lines evoke subdued but intense feelings underlying this poignant tale of taking leave. Except in the foreword, Campbell never mentions where the child is going—so Shi-shi-etko’s sadness and determination will also resonate with any child who’s had to leave a familiar world behind. (Picture book. 6-8)