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Pickle Me This

February 19, 2016

Dragonfly Kites, by Tomson Highway and Julie Flett

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Just a week after bringing you a review of My Heart Fills With Happiness, by Monique Gray Smith and Julie Flett, I’m pleased to bring you another beautiful book illustrated by Flett. This one is Dragonfly Kites, written by Tomson Highway, who’s best known for his plays and works for adults (The Rez Sisters, Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing, Kiss of the Fur Queen).

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Like Flett’s illustrations, Highway’s story is gorgeous and simple. It features Cody and Joe, who appeared in his previous picture book, Caribou Song (and there is another in the works in this planned trilogy). The boys live with their parents in Northern Manitoba where there are so many lakes they’ve never stayed on the same one twice, and there are “islands and forests and beaches and clear water But no people.”

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In this landscape, the boys make their own play, collecting sticks and giving them names, making up stories about the characters they become. (As we read this, I asked my city-dwelling children, “Do we know anybody who’d ever play a game like that?” and they both nodded, smiling at me.)

The story gives Flett the opportunity to do what she does best (and what she’s made a reputation for in books like Dolphin SOS, Wild Berries and Little You): beautiful scenes set in nature, highlighted with bright prints and patterns. Her talent shines in particular with her renderings of the dragon flies of the book’s title, with the gorgeous intricacies of their wings.

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Joe and Cody name and play with many animals they encounter in the wild, but the dragonflies are their favourite. They catch the dragonflies in nets and tie threads around their middles, holding the strings with the dragonflies flying like kites. Which is the point at which the book really takes flight, and I’ll own up to googling “dragonfly kites” to find out if this is really something people do, and I don’t think it actually is, but that Highway made me wonder is a testament to this book’s magic. The dragonflies’ flight continuing long after the boys are tucked into bed at night, continuing on in their dreams, and now they’re soaring high with the insects, into the sunset, straight on until morning.

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“That was a good one,” said Harriet when the story was over, the flight was done.

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