What a delightful picture book introducing Native American words and concepts to readers, young and old!
Amik is a young beaver who is excited to host a gathering of her cousins at her river home. Her little sister Nishiime is curious but shy, and vanishes almost as soon as the others begin to arrive. While Amik is a little dismayed at Nishiime’s disappearance, she’s soon busy greeting her cousins, accepting their gifts, and showing them around the dam and surrounding areas. She keeps an eye out for Nishiime the entire time, asking passing animals whether they’ve seen her little sister. Some of her cousins are afraid of some of her scarier animal neighbors, but Amik is quick to assure them that all the animals, even the carnivores, appreciate what the beavers do for the environment.
Nishiime finally turns up as the cousins are preparing to leave, and confides in Amik the lessons she learned that day. They wave goodbye to their cousins, promising to return the visits when Nishiime is older. The book closes with a delightful glossary and pronunciation guide, as well as the information that each cousin’s name came from their respective Nation’s word for beaver.
Nancy Cooper’s story is charming and engrossing, showing not only the importance of the beaver in maintaining a healthy ecosystem but also in allowing shy kids to warm up in their own time, even if it means they miss out on some of the fun. I wasn’t sure how I would feel about Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley’s art at first: the cover seems rather murky, even for a depiction of beavers in a dammed-up stream. Perhaps that’s due to the color palette not translating well on my computer screen; I’ve certainly found that physical works tend to look at least 50% percent better than their digital counterparts.
But as the book continued, I found myself admiring how wonderfully his art complemented Ms Cooper’s words. The colors are rich and the characters joyful, with tons of nods to Native culture in the details. The overall palette is still pretty dark, but the overall effect suits the story fine. Definitely recommended for any children’s library.
Biindigen! Amik Says Welcome by Nancy Cooper and Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley was published today March 14 2023 by Owlkids and is available from all good booksellers, including