Cloudwalker by R.H. Vickers and R. Budd
Vickers, Roy Henry and Robert Budd. Cloudwalker. Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publishing, 2014. Print.
This is a stunning new book from painter, print maker, carver, author and member of the Orders of Canada and British Columbia, Roy Henry Vickers. It contains 18 new prints from this innovative Indigenous artist, which accompany the retelling of a traditional story. The story explains the origin of the three great rivers: The Nass, The Stikine and the Skeena (or Ksien, which means "juice from the clouds”). It is the story of a young man who is carried up to the clouds by swans and wanders around on the clouds. He carries a box of water, which spills when he falls. The spills form the lakes and rivers on the land. While the text tells the story, it also incorporates cultural knowledge including the cycle of the salmon and the importance of marmot hides as symbols of wealth. The text is simple and readable at the upper elementary level.
While the story is important, it is the sophisticated artwork that makes this book stand out. Vickers has used flat designs, incorporating the familiar formlines and ovoids found in traditional North coastal Indigenous art. Ovoids are the rounded shapes used to portray joints and sometimes eyes. Some of the paintings show the familiar red and black figures on simple backgrounds of strong colours. However other figures are printed in shiny overlay most visible as you move the book to catch the light, creating hidden treasures for children to find. For example the image on page 28 shows a figure by the river; shiny streaks cross the page to represent rain and shiny fish are printed on the surface of the river.
This book, which reminds us that picture books and traditional stories are not just for children, would be an excellent addition to public and school libraries everywhere, as well as to collections that specialize in Canadian Indigenous traditional stories.
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.
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