Missing Nimâmâ by Melanie Florence & François Thisdale (Illustrations)

"Cree writer Melanie Florence and Quebec illustrator François Thisdale took home the TD Canadian Children's Literature Award for the picture book Missing Nimâmâ during the Canadian Children's Book Centre Awards in Toronto on Nov. 17, 2016."

It's good that this book won this award, but it is not a picture book for children.

Melanie Florence's ancestry is Cree. Her grandfather is a residential school survivor. Her family's history is one more horrific story of how the country tried to destroy indigenous cultures. Florence has written numerous books about indigenous people as a response to this history and her disenfranchisement from it.

Missing Nimâmâ is a difficult book to read because it focuses on the issue of the murdered and missing indigenous women in Canada. It is told from the perspective of the child and her missing mother. Readers see the child grow up and become a young woman with her own child, all the while grieving the loss of her mother. The mother's perspective is very dark, including not only the grief of missing her child, but also memories of what happened to her.

Francois Thisdale's illustrations are one of the reasons I love picture books. These are both haunting and drop dead gorgeous. It's important to spend time absorbing them in order to fully appreciate the story. 

The back matter has additional information about the murdered and missing women. 

I don't recommend this book with students younger than 16, and even then, I would be mindful of who they are, and what the purpose is. Debbie Reese, in her blog, American Indians in Children's Literature, has written about this book here. While I concur with much of what she says about the appropriateness of this book, I want to acknowledge a purpose for picture books aside from their use with younger children. As a teacher librarian I had numerous picture books put aside to use in critical literacy lessons for older students. Still, I wouldn't include this book in my elementary school collection. I even suggested my local library remove it from the children's fiction section. 

That doesn't negate the importance of this book. It is a book older readers and adults should read. There are stories adults need to understand and sometimes a picture book is the most powerful way to convey it. I believe this book is one of those. 

No comments:

Post a Comment