September 06, 2017

Nipêhon/I Wait

Written by Caitlin Dale Nicholson with Leona Morin-Neilson
Illustrated by Caitlin Dale Nicholson
Translated by Leona Morin-Neilson
Groundwood Books
24 pp.
Ages 4-7
September 2017

The waiting that happens in Nipêhon/I Wait is not of the onerous variety but one that is reserved for companions coming together to complete a task.  It's a part of the process and one gladly done to achieve something worthwhile.

In Nipêhon/I Wait, three generations travel by RV to a site where they will pick yarrow flowers and leaves in order to produce a tea used for medicinal purposes. (A recipe is appended to the story.)  It is evident that Nôhkom (grandmother) leads, as daughter and granddaughter wait for her to gather her supplies.  Then, with every action that Nôhkom makes, the narrator and granddaughter follows as does Mom.  When she walks, they walk.  When she takes out her Medicine Bundle and prays, so too do her granddaughter and daughter.  But, when Nôhkom picks, placing the white flowers and leaves in her paper bag, it is only her granddaughter who follows.  Mom is busy blowing the seed heads from what looks like a Tragopogon.  So now Nôhkom and the narrator must wait. Eventually Mom begins to pick the yarrow and the three complete their task, ending the simple story of family coming together with the words, "We are done!"

Caitlin Dale Nicholson, a teacher and student of UNBC instructor of Cree Leona Morin-Neilson, takes her lessons of traditional plant medicines and her observations about generations connecting to create the unique story that is Nipêhon/I Wait.  Nôhkom, undoubtedly modelled after Leona Morin-Neilson, is the elder who guides the trio on their journey of collection and family as she did in their first picture book collaboration, Niwechihaw/I Help (Groundwood, 2008).  The story is told in English and Cree (the Y dialect), with the Cree text presented in both standard roman orthography and syllabics, the translation provided by Leona Morin-Neilson.
From Nipêhon/I Wait
by Caitlin Dale Nicholson and Leona Morin-Neilson
 illus. by Caitlin Dale Nicholson
The acrylic illustrations are the work of Caitlin Dale Nicholson who ensures accuracy and reality while going beyond true likeness and sharing the feel of the people and the place.  The patience and connection between the three generations is palpable, even as they work separately and seemingly silently.  Like the few words that tell the story, few words are needed between them.  They understand each other without verbalizing it every moment. It is calming and still intense with kinship.  (Those social media hounds who feel the need to overshare could take a lesson here.)  The strokes of Caitlin Dale Nicholson's paint give movement to the grasses, the trees, the plants, and of course the people and dog.  From Mom rubbing the dog's belly with her foot to the picking of the yarrow, life is going on, telling a story of a bond borne in tradition and affection.
From Nipêhon/I Wait
by Caitlin Dale Nicholson and Leona Morin-Neilson
 illus. by Caitlin Dale Nicholson

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