A bilingual English/Cree picture book describes the lakeside summer idylls of brothers Joe and Cody.
Living with their parents in a tent on the shores of Manitoba’s northern lakes, the First Nations boys have little human company, but they are far from alone. There’s Ootsie, the little dog “who was almost a person,” and the sticks and rocks they name and play with. They make temporary pets of wildlife, too: Arctic tern, loon, and eagle chicks, along with “the squirrels and the rabbits and the chipmunks that ate from their hands”; each creature is carefully named, sometimes with an English name and sometimes with a Cree one. Highway’s text is spare and declarative, carefully isolating child-friendly details that brim with gentle humor. One eagle chick is named “Migisoo, which means ‘eagle’ in Cree,” while the other is “named Wagisoo, which doesn’t mean anything but rhymes with Migisoo.” Flett’s equally spare signature style is a perfect match, placing black-haired, brown-skinned boys in shorts and Chucks against dark green grass and chilly-looking blue water. The titular kites are the boys’ “favourite pets”: dragonflies with long pieces of thread tied “gently around the middle of each.” They run along with the dragonflies before letting them go over the lake. The English text is printed in black, with the Cree text printed in brick-red beneath it; both are by Highway himself.
At once a celebration of heritage, the wilderness, and imagination, this book is a breath of fresh northern air. (Picture book. 5-8)