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Shingebiss: An Ojibwe Legend Hardcover – September 9, 1997
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Gr. 3^-4, younger for reading aloud. In this picture book for older readers, Kabibona'kan, Winter Maker, seems determined to let Shingebiss, a merganser duck, freeze to death. But even though the plucky bird has only four logs to warm his lodge during the winter months, he is still able to stand strong against his great opponent. The names in this Ojibwe legend may be hard for children to pronounce, and the story contains references to a time frame that's different than our calendar year. Despite that, readers and listeners will enjoy the story and identify with Shingebiss' courage and absolute determination to outlast hard times. Bowen's woodcuts extend the text, heightening the difference between the story's setting and our own times. A glossary, source notes, and some engrossing information on how the illustrations were executed are included. Karen Morgan
From Kirkus Reviews
Van Laan (La Boda, 1996, etc.) goes to the way back time, when Shingebiss, a resourceful merganser duck, presents a challenge to Kabibona'kan, Winter Maker, who does not want him to be able to withstand the harsh winter. Winter Maker does everything in his power to thwart Shingebiss's efforts to catch fish--he freezes the waters of Great Lake Superior ``as solid as stone.'' Knowing that the clever duck has only four logs to last the winter, Kabibona'kan is certain he can blow drifts deep enough to freeze the bird. But the theme of the small overcoming the mighty prevails, for the tiny hero can be neither frozen nor starved. According to Ojibwe legend, Shingebiss has ever since served as a reminder of perseverence and fortitude. Bowen's labor-intensive, painstaking process of carving and inking woodblocks in stages produces an effective primitive style that evokes contrasts of the northern wilderness clime: The warm umbers of Shingebiss's wigwam home are carefully collated with the chilling blues and icy whites of the scenes where the appropriately scary Winter Maker is at work. Hand-lettered text is framed in borders inspired by the shape of Ojibwe ricing baskets, adding a rustic lure to the lore. (Picture book. 4-8) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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This Ojibwe legend, as retold with carefulness, selectivity and skill by Nancy Van Laan (she has a knack for using just the right word) is deep, touching and beautiful. It would be fascinating to any child. It also offers an education into the Ojibway vocabulary, incorporated in the text so naturally the one feels like one is living in the wood right alongside Shingebiss (pronounced ZHING-gih-biss), a very brave and plucky merganser duck, who manages to get the best of a formidable winter visitor - Kabibona'kan, Winter Maker himself, who tries with all his might (and it is plentiful) to do the duck in. But this special duck is not a quitter, and even his Winter Maker enemy finally concedes, since "he [Shingebiss] is a very singular being...I will let him alone."
And even to this day, during Moon of the Freezing Over the Earth (November); Spirit Moon (December); Great Spirit Moon (January); Stingy Moon (February); and my favorite, Maple Sugar Moon (March), Kabibona'kan has kept his promise. "Year after year, even in the coldest of months, Shingebiss continues to live out the winter by breaking through the ice and diving for fish."
Among sources cited for this book is the following: "Tobacco and gifts were taken to an elder in the Grand Portage Chippewa Band to ask for an understanding of this story."
For sheer delight and beauty, this is the book!