Otter Doesn’t Know

Orca. (Coast Salish Tales: Bk. 1). Sept. 2023. 32p. Tr $21.95. ISBN 9781459836211.
PreS-Gr 4–Fritz opens by inviting readers to share stories with the “smun’eem,” or children in their lives. Thuqi’ is a sockeye salmon who has grown large enough to swim back up the river to her birthplace to spawn. But she had no one to swim with, having been separated from her family, and she cannot remember the way back. She asks Tumus, the otter, for help, but he is brusque with her, and she sets out alone. Gaining confidence, but still unsure, Thuqi’ is surprised when Tumus shows up in the deep waters, as lost as she once felt. She kindly helps him back to shallow waters and he, chastised by the example of her good behavior, offers his own version of help. The story ends on a note of hope that Thuqi’ will find her way home. The swirling forms and colors of the art match the resonant echoes of the story: the call of home, the treatment of others, purity of mission. Fritz invites readers to fill out the story, and also teaches the language in open-ended, accessible manner. Back matter includes a pronunciation guide and glossary.
VERDICT A welcome contribution to the shelves of First Nation literature, as well as a starting point for learning more about Coast Salish art and traditional storytelling techniques.

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