We Belong to the Drum

Orca. (We Belong to the Drum). May 2023. 32p. $21.95. ISBN 9781459834354.
PreS-Gr 3–Based on her son’s experience, Cree author Lamouche presents a story of how a young child overcomes separation anxiety. In Cree tradition, the drum represents the heartbeat of Mother Earth. Nikosis first heard the sound of the drum within the womb, when he heard his mother’s heartbeat. Nikosis and his grandmother (Okhoma), mother (Okawiya), and father (Oktawiya) spend summers at powwow gatherings. Surrounded by family and friends, he sings and dances until “the drum made him want to have a nap.” When his mother first leaves him at daycare, Nikosis cries, body rigid with fear. His mother asks the daycare teacher to play a CD of powwow music. The teacher complies and passes out drums so the other children can play along. When Nikosis hears the music he associates with family and cultural identity, he feels welcome. The next day, he can’t wait to join his new friends and rushes outside, with his shirt inside-out. Cree illustrator Whitecalf uses flowing lines and colorful details to enliven this simple yet emotionally resonant story.
VERDICT Offering an appreciative glimpse of Cree culture and traditions, and a gentle message of inclusion, this is a welcome addition to the “first day of school” shelves in school and public libraries.

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