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Friday, June 17, 2016

Missing Nimama, written by Melanie Florence and illustrated by Francois Thisdale. Clockwise Press, 2015. $19.95 ages 10 and up

"Thank you, nimama.
Thank you for taking on my
child, though you were
finished raising your own
years ago. Thank you for
cooking and cleaning and
doing laundry and buying
birthday gifts and drying
tears. For loving her
unconditionally. Thank
you for telling Kateri about me."

Kateri has grown up in the loving presence of her nohkom after losing her mother, Aiyana Cardinal.
Aiyana is one of the missing indigenous women of Canada, presumed to have died a violent death. No body has been found. Kateri loves her grandmother, and has lived a good life with her. But, she longs to see and talk with her mother again. All she has left are memories and images that remind her of the woman who called her 'little butterfly'.

As she grows older, she realizes that her mother is gone and not coming back. The sadness felt by all three members of the family is palpable throughout the reading. The mother voices her feelings as we watch grandmother and granddaughter live a life that the mother no longer shares with them. She is ever grateful for the care given and the knowledge that, although she can no longer care for her daughter, the two left are happy together and her daughter is flourishing.

The alternating voices and the story they tell of loss and grief are a fitting tribute to the almost 1200 Aboriginal women who are counted as missing or murdered in Canada over the past thirty five years. A glossary of terms, further background information, and a connection to an educator's guide are valuable for those sharing Kateri's story.

Many important issues are presented within the story's context ... first and foremost, the loss of so many beloved women to their families and communities. It also celebrates the Cree language and the relationship between the three women. Focusing on one of the women and the impact of her loss on her young daughter as she moves from one of life's milestones to the next gives immediacy for listeners and opens discussion on loss and grief and hopefully, aboriginal truth and reconciliation.

Francois Thisdale proves his mettle with difficult issues once again, illustrating this fine story with
a healthy dose of hope and allowing us to see to the heart of it. Engaging, while also thoughtful, his images offer many opportunities for discussion.


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