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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Rainbow Crow, written by David Bouchard with art from David Jean and music by Manantial. Red Deer Press, Fitzhenry & Whiteside. 2012. $24.95 ages 7 and up

"Owl rose and addressed the council. "Much of the journey through Father Sky will be made in darkness. You all know that I can see in the dark. Perhaps I should be the one to go." As the council muttered approval, Bear spoke. "Owl, you are courageous and you are a great hunter...but your song...
your HOOT will not capture the attention of Creator."

As have many of David's recent books, Rainbow Crow is presented in more than one language. With a flute playing in the background, the book is introduced by David himself in which he explains the protocol of telling this story:

"Listen to me. With your hands open on Mother Earth, you hear, feel and sense that there is nothing between us. Mother Earth gives us everything we need - water, food, and shelter. All things are born of her. All things return to her. Crawlers, flyers, swimmers, two- and four- leggeds...we are all her children. We are all related."

David then tells his story through the voices of the animals and birds gathered at council. It is Lenape legend and tells the story of Crow bringing fire to the Earth. That fire is needed to save us from the dark cold of long winter months. After much discussion, and with varying reasons for one or another of the flyers being incapable of travelling to the Creator for help, Crow is chosen.

Crow makes her way to Creator and offers her melodic song.  Creator is suitably impressed and wants to thank Crow for the most beautiful song yet heard. He tells her that he cannot take back what he has given, but he can give a new gift in thanks. He returns with fire; he knows it will help to warm and sustain all.

On her way back with the firestick, Crow realizes that she does not have enough fire to make it home. She flies too close to Grandfather Sun, and her feathers catch fire and her skin burns. When she arrives back on Earth, her feathers have lost all of their beautiful colors and her lovely song is nothing but a loud 'CAW!' She has given up much to help others.

Her black feathers and raucous voice will be forever a reminder of her heroic journey. Because Creator recognizes the sacrifice she has made, he makes her a promise:

""Little Crow, you have sacrificed too much. For the sacrifice you made of your beautiful colors, I promise that you shall always have a shine and sheen in your feathers like no other. For the sacrifice you made of your beautiful song, I promise that your family will always be strong. And for having had to smell your own flesh burn, your meat will forevermore taste burned. No one will want to hunt you."
David Jean's lovely realistic artwork is created on drum skins in the colors of the forest. The circle of the drum skin is in keeping with the circle of life...the journey that we all take from birth to death. The council sits in a circle, paying close attention to Bear as they await Crow's return. The art adds calm beauty to a lovely story told well.

The CD that accompanies the book allows listeners to hear the story first in David's voice, then to hear Jason Jones read the story in Ojibwe. I followed the text and was amazed at the difficulty of the language, also the real enjoyment of listening to it. Then, sit back again and enjoy the music of Manantial, an Ecuadoran group who sing in Kichwa, the indigenous language of the Salasaca people. It is quite wonderful.

As an added bonus, David then reads the story in French. I closed my eyes and listened to the music  of the language, the flute and Manantial. Quite an extraordinary experience!

I have always been intrigued with pourquoi tales. This is one I had not heard. I can no longer say that!

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