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Book: “Returning to the Yakoun River” by Sarah Florence Davidson, Robert Davidson, and Janine Gibbons (Ill.)
Publishing Info: HighWater Press, September 2022
Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from the publisher.
Book Description: Based on author Sara Florence Davidson’s childhood memories, this illustrated story captures the joy and adventure of a Haida fish camp.
Every summer, a Haida girl and her family travel up the Yakoun River on Haida Gwaii, following the salmon. While their father fishes, the girl and her brother spend their time on the land playing and learning from Tsinii (Grandfather).
Review: Thank you to HighWater Press for sending me an eARC of this book!
We are wrapping up this HighWater Press event with a bit of a rarity on this blog. We don’t usually review children’s picture books, for a litany of reasons, and that general rule is one that we rarely stray from. But “I’m making an exception for this event, because goodness knows that “Returning to the Yakoun River” Sarah Florence Davidson is the perfect place to end this series, as it has a focus on generational traditions being shared with children of today, and to me that seemed like a good place to wrap up.
“Returning to the Yakoun River” is a simple story about a Haida girl and her family going fishing on the Yakoun River during the salmon season, and while her father fishes she and the other children spend time with their Tsinii (grandfather) at the fish camp. Throughout this time she learns about how to help set up for the cooking, plays with her cousins and brother on the river, and watches as her Tsinii prepares the salmon that is caught for eating in a traditional way. It’s a very simple story based on memories from Sarah Florence Davidson’s childhood, with memories of her father (who collaborated with her on this) and her grandfather during a visit to the fish camp. It’s a nice slice of life tale that highlights the way that children can learn from their elders, and how traditions from the past change and yet are maintained over the years. Given that Davidson is an educator who has a focus on the importance of intergenerational learning, it’s a simple story that has a lot of heart and a lot to say about these things, while also being tailored specifically for a younger age group. We also have a helpful map of the area where this story takes place, and some background on Davidson’s grandfather, whose role as a leader in the community, artist, and fisherman are laid out to show the reader who the Tsinii is based upon.
And the artwork is just fantastic. I am not certain the medium that Janine Gibbons used for the art, but it looks like some kind of paintwork and it is so lovely and artistic. It also somewhat, to me, conveys the dreaminess of memories in the design and aesthetic.
“Returning to the Yakoun River” is a gentle and placid story about intergenerational learning and the importance of passing that learning down through the generations. I really enjoyed it, and found it to be a poignant way to wrap up this month long spotlight on Indigenous voices and stories.
Rating 8: A lovely story about a family respecting and practicing traditions of genertions past, “Returning to the Yakoun River” has a sweet plot and gorgeous illustrations.