Kate’s Review: “The Raven Mother”

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Book: “The Raven Mother” by Hetxw’ms Gyetxw (Brett D. Hudson), & Natasha Donovan (Ill.)

Publishing Info: HighWater Press, September 2022

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from the publisher.

Where You Can Get This Book: WorldCat | HighWater Press | Indiebound

Book Description: Hoarders. Scavengers. Clever foragers. Bringers of new life.

Ravens have many roles, both for the land and in Gitxsan story and song. The sixth book in Hetxw’ms Gyetxw (Brett D. Huson)’s Mothers of Xsan series transports young readers to Northwestern British Columbia, where they will learn about the traditions of the Gitxsan, the lives of ravens, and why these acrobatic flyers are so important to their ecosystem.

Follow along as Nox Gaak, the raven mother, teaches her chicks what they need to survive with the help of her flock.

Review: Thank you to HighWater Press for sending me an eARC of this book!

Maintaining my stereotypical Goth girl at heart aesthetic, I have always been a huge fan of corvids of all types. Living in Minnesota that means that crows are the corvids in my backyard, but when my husband and I went to London for our honeymoon I was DESPERATE to see the Ravens at the Tower (I also bought a stuffed raven that still sits on my nightstand). When my parents went to Alaska a few years ago my Mom sent me pictures of ravens any time she caught one on her camera. So yeah, give me any and all corvid content. THEREFORE, I was particularly interested in “The Raven Mother” by Hetxw’ms Gyetxw (aka Brett D. Hudson) in this HighWater Press series that I’m doing this month. And it didn’t disappoint!

“The Raven Mother” is an educational middle grade book that puts the ecological and cultural significance of ravens in British Columbia, Canada, specifically through the context of the Gitxsan People. The story is pretty straightforward as a mother raven tends to her chicks with the help of the ravens in her community. It’s easy to understand and has a lot of good information that’s presented in a way for the audience that I felt worked really well. We not only get Gitxsan words and language interspersed in the narrative, we also get definitions of those words as well as definitions to relevant words that may be unfamiliar to younger readers. We also get a great introduction to the concept of ecosystems and ecology, with talk of seasonal changes, animal movements and migrations, and the way that animals, specifically ravens, connect to the environment they inhabit, and how that can have an effect on other things within the ecosystem. And seeing it through the seasons of a raven and her babies as they grow and change was definitely a good way for the audience to connect to it. If science was presented in such a way when I was a kid I would have really connected to it more, I think.

I also really loved the historical notes in the back of this book, as they give great context for the Gitxsan People and the areas they inhabited during the time that this book is set. The lists of the seasonal moons and the drawn map of the area where the various four clans were placed were easy to follow and the brief history is easy to understand, as well as forthright about the colonized land and space as it is defined by ‘official’ geography today. Again, it is all very approachable and I would have loved to encounter information presented in such a way when I was the target age for this book. And I really can’t stress enough how important it is to have these voices and perspectives amplified as much as possible.

And I am going to gush about the artwork in this book. I absolutely loved it. I loved the design of the animals, landscapes, and people. I loved the colors and how they pop off the page. I loved the way that everything felt like it flowed and connected across pages. I really really loved everything about it, so major props to Natasha Donovan.

I mean just look at this. GORGEOUS! (source: HighWater Press)

Filled with accessible information about ecosystems and culture, “The Raven Mother” is an enjoyable read that will be a great teaching tool for the target audience. I quite enjoyed reading it and will definitely be sharing it with my own child when she’s older.

Rating 8: An educational story about ecosystems, ravens, food webs, and how they all connect to each other, “The Raven Mother” is some solid middle grade science as well as cultural exploration.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Raven Mother” isn’t on any Goodreads lists as of yet, but I think it would fit in on “Non-Fiction: Crows and Ravens”.

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