Thunder Bay Chronicle Journal Review - Little Voice

Slipper jack charms with Little Voice
Reviewed by: Linda Turk

A charming series of books for children, In The Same Boat presents the work of different writers in stories of children who face difficult times.

Their latest release is Little Voice, by Ruby Slipperjack, who manages to combine an accomplished career as a writer with her work teaching in Lakehead University's Department of Indigenous Learning.

Little Voice is dedicated to all grandmothers, and is the story of a young girl who finds her own identity through her grandmother's stories and attitudes. Ray is an 11-year-old girl who feels she doesn't fit in wherever she is; in school, she feels out of place because her green eyes set her apart from the other Native children in her Northern Ontario town, and, since her father's death, she feels her grieving mother has no need of her.

Even her name is different; she's teased that a girl has a boy's name.

But while the opportunity to spend a summer with her grandmother seems like an escape from her unhappiness at home, it's also a leap into the unknown.

Much to Ray's surprise, though, she finds that a summer with her grandmother, who lives in traditional ways, is a time to prove to herself that she does, indeed, fit in. 

Her grandmother lives off the land, which means she lives close to the land: camping and fishing and living with the rhythms of nature. She gives the gift that children appreciate most -- her time. She allows Ray a latitude in choosing how and what she's learn, and teaches most by example. Skilled in traditional healing, she inevitably teaches Ray about the properties of different plants, telling her the stories that accompany the various flowers and shrubs; the time spent collecting is a peaceful time, healing in itself for the young girl.

As Ray learns to enjoy a very different way of life, she extends her visit to include two more summers, growing each year in knowledge and in her respect for her grandmother's teachings. Her sense of belonging to herself, no matter where she may be, gives her the confidence to speak for herself.

Charmingly told, and with a quiet humour throughout, LIttle Voice is a story of the difficulties of early adolescence and the way one girl charts her way through these difficulties. The story succeeds so well because it's grounded so firmly in the realities of the land and the ways people find to live on it.

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