Monday, August 20, 2018

Seasonal changes and the moon

We’re on the cusp of starting a new school year which for me feels more like the ‘new year’ than the one we start on January 1st.  A new school year also connects very strongly with seasonal change; Fall is not far off.  We can often see the early signs that cooling temperatures and less light bring to the natural world.  Trees and other plants change colour, drop leaves and flowers and slowly begin to die back.  Animals and birds start to migrate, change colour or grow thicker coats.  It’s all about seasonal change.

Taan’s Moons: a Haida Moon Story by Alison Gear and illustrated by Kiki van der Heiden with the Children of Haida Gwaii, beautifully illustrates seasonal change in a specific area, the northwest coast of British Columbia.

This book looks to present traditional Haida Gwaii knowledge that has been passed down through oral tradition and varies between villages, clans, families and language groups about the Haida moon cycle.

Each double page spread features one of twelve different moons spanning a year. Bear Moon, Snow Moon and Bears Hibernate Moon occur during the winter months, for example. Each title is in English, Skidegate Haida and Old Massett Haida. Every moon has a four line poem that speaks to the essence of that time period as it relates to the life of a bear.

Bears Hibernate Moon is described as,

Taan lumbers up the mountain;
hemlock curtains close.
She crawls into a dent or roots,
and then begins to doze.

The illustrations have been co-created by Kiki van der Heiden and primary grade children from various schools in the Haida Gwaii area, using felt.  The illustrator states, “the images that bring this story to life have come from the children’s imaginations, and have been enthusiastically and lovingly created by them, with final touches respectfully applied by Kiki.

Great care has been given to recognizing everyone involved in this project, appreciation for the traditional stories and the Indigenous people who tell them. The book includes a forward (by Richard Van Camp), a preface, back notes honouring contributors, artists and other participants of which there were many, a note about Haida language, a note about the illustrations and credit for where “a written record of this particular cycle can be found.”

This is a lovely book that works across content areas embedding Indigenous knowledge and connecting to nature.  What better way could there be to learn about culture, science, nature, art, story, poetry and language?

I recommend this one for elementary grades.


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