display | more...

Although this book by Grey Owl was written for children, adults should enjoy it also. The dedication reads "To children everywhere and to all who love the silent places." Originally published by the MacMillan Company of Canada in 1935, it has been reprinted many times to keep up with demand. The text is gracefully written, humorous, and fun to read. The author's own pencil illustrations are scattered through the book, depicting Canadian wildlife and Native American customs.

The story is about two lost beaver kittens who are rescued by Gitchie Meegwon (Big Feather), an Ojibway hunter, and cared for by his fourteen year old son, Shapian, and eleven year old daughter, Sajo. Gitchie Meegwon is a loving father and his children are well-behaved. When the beavers are brought home to the Indians' cabin, Sajo names them Chilawee and Chikanee (Big Small and Little Small). The children and the pet beavers have a wonderful time together all summer until one day when Gitchie Meegwon is forced to trade Chikanee to a white man in return for food and supplies for his family.

After Chikanee is gone, the cabin is terribly lonely. Chilawee spends all his time searching the area for his missing brother. At last, Sajo dreams of a solution! The second half of the story relates the adventures of Sajo and Shapian as they make the long journey to the City in order to rescue Chikanee from the zoo and reunite him with Chilawee. It is a dangerous trip but the children meet many nice people who help them along the way.1

I cannot comment on the authenticity of the Ojibway words and customs described by Grey Owl in this book, but the account sounds reasonable and has an Indian flavor.2 For example, Gitchie Meegwon's canoe made of birch bark is stained yellow and has large eyes painted on the bow and a fox tail tied to the stern. The tang of adventure and the romance of the wilderness should appeal to many readers, both young and old.

1. Spoiler: Chikanee is eventually rescued from the zoo and brought back to Gitchie Meegwon's cabin (but in the meantime the whole village has turned out to search for Sajo and Shapian, who neglected to tell anyone where they were going). In late fall, the Indians return both kittens to the pond in the forest where they were born.
2. Since I am not a Native American myself, I do not know whether this "Indian flavor" has any connection to reality. In the Preface, Grey Owl states that everything in the story actually happened to him or to people he knew.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.