March 15, 2023

Sometimes I Feel Like a River

Written by Danielle Daniel
Illustrated by Josée Bisaillon
Groundwood Books
32 pp.
Ages 3-6
March 2023
In 2015, Danielle Daniel brought us Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox to help her own child identify with his First Nations roots and allow other children to see themselves in the strengths and behaviours of animals. Now, Danielle Daniel has teamed up with illustrator Josée Bisaillon to take children on another sensory experience, one in which her poems reflect feelings as landscape elements from rivers to oceans and even the moon.

From Sometimes I Feel Like a River by Danielle Daniel, illus. by Josée Bisaillon
In four-line free verses, Danielle Daniel compares children's moods to how they experiences different environmental attributes. When a child feels like the sun, there is brightness and joy inside of them. If one feels like a river, it's because there is bending and maneuvering around obstacles. Another feels strong like a mountain, another peaceful like the sky, and others feels like rain or rainbows. All moods are reflected and recognized.
From Sometimes I Feel Like a River by Danielle Daniel, illus. by Josée Bisaillon
Just as there are different moods, there are different children, ensuring that all young readers might see themselves within and know that they and their feelings are validated.
From Sometimes I Feel Like a River by Danielle Daniel, illus. by Josée Bisaillon
Sometimes I Feel Like a River is a lovely meditative reflection in sensory metaphors. Both in Danielle Daniel's verse and in Josée Bisaillon's art, the emotions that are reflected are true, emulating both the range of experiences within and as a part of our natural world. Danielle Daniel's words take us into the smile of a rainbow, the "boom, roar, bang" of thunder or the depths of an ocean. We feel through her words what the child feels. But the feelings are not just internal. They are also connecting with the outside world and that's what Danielle Daniel wants us to do. She completes her book with a text called "A Mindful Walk or Roll" to help children take an excursion into nature to see and feel, to hear and smell. She wants children to know that they reflect the world as the world is part of them.
Because Josée Bisaillon uses a variety of media, including soft and wax pastels, cut paper, coloured pencils, gouache, charcoal, and even digital art, she can depict a full range of emotions and textures of place and people. Whether a child is reaching mountain peaks into the clouds or swimming in the colourful underwater world of an ocean, Josée Bisaillon delivers us into the experience.

Even after feeling the full range of emotions portrayed through Danielle Daniel's words and Josée Bisaillon's illustrations, I was left subdued and in a contemplative mood, pondering my own natural world of snow and trees and sun. Sometimes I Feel Like a River made me feel part of something, something bigger and more important. It's a good feeling.

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