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Rainbow Crow – Nagweyaabi-Aandeg by D. Bouchard

Bouchard, David.  Rainbow Crow – Nagweyaabi-Aandeg. Markham, ON: Red Deer Press, 2012 Print and CD-ROM.

David Bouchard is a best-selling Métis author who has received literary awards and the Order of Canada.  This volume is a retelling of the Lenape myth of how crows became black and acquired their raspy voices.  The story is printed in English and Ojibwe.  The accompanying CD-ROM is read in English, French (Bouchard) and Ojibwe (Jason Jones) with background music by the Paris-based Ecuadorian group, Manantial. The recordings are high quality and the readings clear and easy to understand. In the English reading, Bouchard incorporates some dramatic reading and changes of voice for different animals.

Bouchard opens the book with a description of the appropriate protocol for storytelling.  He asks listeners to sit in a circle, on the earth or floor.  The story comes from a time before people, when the winters were very cold and the animals thought that they might perish.  They send little Crow, a small bird with rainbow-coloured feathers and a beautiful song, to visit the Creator to get help.  The Creator gives her a burning branch to take back, and on the return trip she is burned.  The Creator rewards her bravery and sacrifices with beautiful black feathers that shine with the colours of the rainbow, a strong family and burnt-tasting flesh so that no one will want to hunt her.

In the story, traditional values emerge. We see the Council at work, deciding how to solve the problem and agreeing on who should go to the Creator. We see the exchange of gifts as a method of maintaining relationships and bravery and sacrifice for the community being honoured and rewarded. 

Throughout, the story is illustrated by the paintings of Toronto artist David Jean, done on traditional drums.  The images take up one full page and spill over onto the facing text page.  The whole book is grounded in a brown and beige colour palette that incorporates the natural colour variations of the skin on a drum.  Highlight colours are used, for example in the crow’s rainbow feathers, but the colours are muted. 

Overall this is fine book from a master story teller, with the added bonus of the audio-CD. Because traditional stories contain lessons for the whole community, this book is of interest to all ages and the CD makes it accessible to all ages.   Rainbow Crow is also available in French and is a wonderful addition to school and public libraries. 

Highly recommended:  4 stars out of 4
Reviewer:  Sandy Campbell

Sandy is a Health Sciences Librarian at the University of Alberta, who has written hundreds of book reviews across many disciplines.  Sandy thinks that sharing books with children is one of the greatest gifts anyone can give.