Shingebiss: An Ojibwe Legend

Shingebiss: An Ojibwe Legend

by Nancy Van Laan, Betsy Bowen
     
 

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Shingebiss, a little merganser duck, can always find plenty to eat. In all seasons, the Great Lake is full of fish. But one cold year the lake freezes over, and Shingebiss has to find a way to fish through the thick ice. To do that, he must face the fierce Winter Maker. Gracefully told and illustrated with vigorous woodcuts, this ancient Ojibwe story captures all

Overview

Shingebiss, a little merganser duck, can always find plenty to eat. In all seasons, the Great Lake is full of fish. But one cold year the lake freezes over, and Shingebiss has to find a way to fish through the thick ice. To do that, he must face the fierce Winter Maker. Gracefully told and illustrated with vigorous woodcuts, this ancient Ojibwe story captures all the power of winter and all the courage of a small being who refuses to see winter as his enemy. This sacred story shows that those who follow the ways of Shingebiss will always have plenty to eat, no matter how hard the great wind of Winter Maker blows.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In the "way-back time" of Ojibwe legend, Shingebiss, a merganser duck, dives for fish in Great Lake Superior. But during December's Spirit Moon, Winter Maker freezes the vast lake "solid as stone," and the two engage in a battle of wills. In the end, Shingebiss's persistence and ingenuity triumph over the adversities of winter. Van Laan's (In a Circle Long Ago) lyric text flows like a soft drum beat and, although lengthy, wastes no words. Shingebiss embodies the human qualities of wisdom, patience and perseverance, as Bowen (Antler, Bear, Canoe) makes explicit with her closing portrait of two ice fishermen. The artist's rustic, spirited woodcuts appear within circular frames of thick, loose lines that give one the sense of peering through ice holes. Outside the frames she gives clues about the cycles of nature. In the introduction, Van Laan tells us the Ojibwe believe that "every living thing imparts a sacred teaching." Here, words and pictures resonate to leave readers with a lasting lesson of survival. Ages 4-8. (Aug.)
Children's Literature - Gisela Jernigan
Shingebiss, a determined little merganser duck contentedly lived in a small bark wigwam on the shores of Lake Superior. In this tale with an environmental message, Shingebiss uses his survival skills to outwit and out-last Winter Maker, even when the Great Lake is solidly frozen over. Bold, colorful woodcuts are a nice complement to the lively text. A glossary and background information are included.
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 4A small superhero duck goes against giant Winter Maker in this engaging Ojibwe myth. Shingebiss is persistent, hardy, and unafraid in resisting Winter Maker's attempts to freeze him out of his cozy wigwam on Lake Superior. To survive, all the little merganser has are four logs to burn (one for each month of winter) and his ability to make a small hole in the ice through which to dive for fish. When Winter Maker freezes Shingebiss's hole in the ice, trapping the duck under the lake, he pecks another hole from the bottom and pops up. Finally, clever Shingebiss invites his enemy into his lodge where the mighty Winter Maker begins to melt. From then on, he decides to leave the duck alone. Van Laan shows commendable care and respect in her retelling. The woodblock prints are both successful and fitting. Small Shingebiss has a wickedly determined gleam in his eye while Winter Maker is shown to be huge and made of equal parts of wind and icemildly but appropriately scary. Book design is felicitous and original: passage of winter months is indicated by phases of the moon and by the disappearance of the four burning logs one at a time. Borders are inspired by the shape of Ojibwe birchbark baskets. This Native American tale introduces a plucky, memorable character in a carefully conceived, well-executed story for reading and for telling.Kate McClelland, Perrot Memorial Library, Greenwich, CT
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.

From the Publisher
"The indomitable Shingebiss is an engaging hero with an admirable lesson to impart, but the distinction of the book also lies in the spectacularly handsome illustrations." Horn Book, Starred

"A glossary, source notes, and some engrossing information on how the illustrations were executed are included." Booklist, ALA

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780618216161
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
04/28/2002
Edition description:
None
Pages:
32
Product dimensions:
(w) x (h) x 0.12(d)
Age Range:
4 - 7 Years

Meet the Author

Betsy Bowen is the author-illustrator of several books for children. Reviewers have described her distinctive woodcuts as bold, rich and handsome. The mother of three sons, she has lived with her family on the rugged north shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota for more than thirty years.

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