April 2009

The Legend of Caribou Boy

By George Blondin and John Blondin
Illustrated by Ray McSwain

$20.95 CAD

$20.95 USD

Binding: Paper

A young boy is having trouble sleeping at night. He is being called to fulfill his destiny, a destiny which lives on today in the traditions and culture of the Dene people and their relationship to the caribou and the land on which they live.

Although Dogrib Elder George Blondin is being acknowledged as the author and storyteller, this legend originated in Dene oral tradition several generation ago. George told this story to his son, the late John Blondin, who presented and performed it publicly to educate children. Barb Cameron, then curator of the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, recorded John’s words.



IBBY Canada is pleased to present From Sea to Sea to Sea: Celebrating Indigenous Picture Books, a digital catalogue of 100 picture books by First Nations, Métis and Inuit authors and illustrators.


Canadian Material Volume XIV Number 13 February 22, 2008

The Legend of the Caribou Boy is the retelling of a traditional First Nation Dogrib tale about a young boy who leaves his family because of the irresistible attraction the boy feels toward a herd of Caribou. Each page features alluring illustrations. The text is presented in both English and the Dogrib language. Given the title of the book, the English and Dogrib texts appropriately are separated by the insertion of a stylized caribou hoof print.


The publisher, Theytus Books, has drawn upon the talents of many individuals in order to share this story with a wider audience. The deceased author, John Blondin, heard the story from his father, the respected Elder, George Blondin. Ray McSwain provided the illustrations for the book. Mary Rose Sundberg translated the English language text into the Dogrib language. An interactive CD accompanies the book. Mary Rose Sundberg reads the text in Dogrib while Dianne Lafferty provides the English narration. The project represents a meeting of the minds and a sharing of talents, and, together, these and other individuals have contributed to a project worthy of pride.


Some interesting foreword information is provided on the initial pages of the book where we learn about the inspiration of the project. The project was borne of recognition of the need for more literature portraying Dogrib culture and language. George Blondin also informs us that he feared the loss of his People's traditional stories.


At book's end, there is a four-page Dogrib orthography and pronunciation guide. This information is, no doubt, of potentially profound educative potential. A reader, however, need not concern him or herself with the supplementary material and need not be distracted from the simple enjoyment of the English text and the evocative accompanying images.


Although sparse on details, there is an almost majestic simplicity to the English text. This simplicity is reflected in many of the human forms in the illustrations. For me, the human forms are not individually as appealing as the artwork as a whole. Viewed as a whole, the illustrations are deeply attractive. The contrasts against the blue or brown backgrounds are striking. Indeed, the various shades of blue that dominate most of the illustrations are mesmerizing. I found they induced an almost dreamlike feel, perfectly in harmony with the tale relayed in the text. The artist, Ray McSwain, is clearly someone who knows how to work with colour and to make colour work for him.


My favourite images from the book are the ones that include the northern lights in starlit skies. In the middle ground, there are shadowy caribou shapes inhabiting that shared space between the dream world and the real world. The illustrations were rendered in mixed media, including a combination of watercolour and acrylic on paper amalgamated with some computer generated graphic designs.

Gregory Bryan -- Gregory Bryan teaches children's literature classes in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg.

Genre: Oral Tradition
Pub Date: April 2009
ISBN 978-1-894778-71-8
Size: 8 x 10 inches
Page Count: 40
Binding: Paper
Illustration Note: Full page illustrations
BISAC 1: JUV022000
Translated Note: Translated by Mary Rose Sundberg
Languages Note: Dual Language- Dogrib (Tlicho) and English
Multi-Media CD Note: Multimedia CD Rom Included
Misc. Note: Orthography Chart included
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