Kinew uses lyrical language to pay tribute to Indigenous heroes and leaders of North America.
In his picture-book debut, Canadian politician and musician Kinew (Ojibways of Onigaming First Nation) aims to uplift and inspire youth, especially Indigenous youth. Readers learn about historical figures such as Sac and Fox athlete Jim Thorpe, Omaha doctor Susan LaFlesche Picotte, and Mohawk Olympian Waneek Horn-Miller, who was wounded by a soldier during the Oka crisis. Touching on topics of Creation, Indian boarding schools, and the anti–Dakota Access Pipeline movement, this book has a broad reach. Though the lines in verse are occasionally awkward, Kinew packs a great deal of power into just a few words: “We are people who matter. / Yes, it’s true. / Now let’s show the world what people who matter can do.” That being said, the spread honoring Sacagawea unquestioningly portrays her as a willing agent in American imperialism, which it celebrates by implication: “Under starry nights west Sacagawea led / Lewis and Clark, so America could spread. / Plus she healed them when they were almost dead. / The men got the credit, but should she have instead?” Morse’s watercolor, digital color, and collage illustrations are masterful. Long limbs and necks, powerful hands, and photorealistic details are characteristic of his style. Most figures are either facing readers or moving towards the right, creating a flow that suggests looking forward to a bright and hopeful future.
A little rough but ultimately a beautiful celebration of Indigenous excellence. (author’s note, biographies) (Informational picture book. 5-12)