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Kunu's Basket: A Story of Indian Island

Kunu's Basket: A Story of Indian Island

by Lee DeCora Francis, Susan Drucker (Illustrator)

Young Kunu wants to make a pack basket on his own. He's watched his dad and his grandfather make baskets on Indian Island, but now that he's trying to make one for himself, it's not as easy as he thought it would be. Kunu isn't a quitter, but he gets so frustrated that he has to go outside to cool off. When his grandfather asks Kunu to help him with some


Young Kunu wants to make a pack basket on his own. He's watched his dad and his grandfather make baskets on Indian Island, but now that he's trying to make one for himself, it's not as easy as he thought it would be. Kunu isn't a quitter, but he gets so frustrated that he has to go outside to cool off. When his grandfather asks Kunu to help him with some basket-making tasks, Kunu comes to understand that it is the tradition in his family for one generation to help the next. He also learns that it might take several tries before he gets it right. Can he be patient enough to try again and again? His grandfather shows him the way, and at last Kunu's first basket is something to celebrate.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Kunu and his family live on the Penobscot Indian Island Reservation in Maine. When Kunu attempts to make a traditional Penobscot basket from ash strips, he is frustrated that it doesn't come easily to him. But with his grandfather's gentle encouragement ("Can you guess how many tries it took for me to get the bottom just right?.... Seven tries! Take your time, gwos, and try again"), Kunu slowly develops confidence. Joining Kunu's lesson in basket-weaving is one about his family's history: basket-making has been passed down from grandfathers and fathers in the tribe throughout the decades. First-time author Francis emphasizes the value of cultural heritage in a straightforward tone that is earnest without becoming pedantic. Also making her debut, Drucker offers naturalistic images of Kunu and his family bathed in soft, golden light. Details of Kunu's family's suburban home (Kunu's basket gets filled with toys, and he wears a pair of purple Crocs) are gracefully juxtaposed with images of baskets from eras past holding fish, berries, potatoes, ferns, and more, suggesting that longstanding cultural traditions can be readily integrated into a contemporary lifestyle. Ages 5-8.
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Children's Literature - Uma Krishnaswami
Kunu has seen his dad and his grandfather make baskets. Now he's trying his own hand at it and getting frustrated. When his grandfather invites him to come help him pound the ash log he's preparing to peel, he finds himself deep into the process before he even realizes it. His Muhmum (grandfather) encourages him along, and pretty soon he's peeling the ash strips and trying to construct a basket bottom. It's harder than it looks, and Muhmum tells him his own first basket bottom took him all of seven tries. A wordless spread shows hands at work and the ash strips slowly coming together to form the needed pattern. The spread provides a moment of silence in the book that nicely parallels the silence that accompanies absorption in an important task. Slowly, the rest of the basket comes together as well, as young Kunu gains in confidence and begins to understand patience and perseverance with his grandfather showing the way. The clarity and simplicity of the text carries its own emotional heft. "With each woven strip, he could feel his basket getting stronger." Lee DeCora Francis (Penobscot/HoChunk) has created a loving family story with a contemporary setting that showcases the bonds between generations and the value of traditional craft. Drucker's illustrations add inset images of the region and the playful presence of animals.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 2—Kunu is a Penobscot boy who lives on Indian Island in Maine. The men in his family have always been basketmakers, and he is attempting to learn the craft. His first efforts are not successful, and his frustration grows. Eventually he accepts help from his grandfather and, with his patient encouragement, the child at last produces his first basket. It is refreshing to have a story that reflects both contemporary Indian life and also presents the importance of carrying on traditions and learning from older generations. However, the story is very slow paced and verges on the didactic. The illustrations have a misty quality that in some way contradicts the fact that this is a here-and-now story. Still, they are well composed with small inserts on the sides of each spread that show an empty basket on the left and that basket filled with berries, clams, ferns, etc. on the right, the contents being observed by native wildlife. This is an important story as it helps to fill a gap in books reflecting and respectful of contemporary Native American life, but it's not an essential purchase otherwise.—Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ

Product Details

Tilbury House Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
9.30(w) x 10.10(h) x 0.40(d)
AD490L (what's this?)
Age Range:
5 - 8 Years

What People are Saying About This

Joseph Bruchac
Kunu's Basket is a delightful new addition to Tilbury House's growing list of titles by Native New Englanders that depict modern American Indian lives. This simple story of a contemporary Penobscot boy being encouraged to make his first basket is told and illustrated with accuracy, clarity and intelligence. It truly should delight not only young children, but people of all ages. It's not just about the enduring nature of traditional crafts, it also demonstrates the values of patience, family, and perseverance. It is the sort of book I'd like to see in the hands of every New England grandparent and in the holdings of every public library. (Joseph Bruchac, Author of Our Stories Remember)

Meet the Author

Lee DeCora Francis (Penobscot/HoChunk) comes from both the Penobscot Indian Nation in Maine and the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska. She is a teacher at the tribal elementary school located at the Penobscot Nation. She lives on Indian Island in Maine with her husband, two beautiful sons, and their cat.

Susan Drucker has loved drawing and painting since she was a child. She has been a freelance and staff illustrator for several magazines and newspapers, and has shown her artwork in galleries throughout Maine. She lives with her husband in Bowdoinham, Maine, and has two grown children. She is thankful to have had the opportunity to learn about the Penobscot Indians while working on this book. More of her artwork can be seen at www.susandrucker.mosaicglobe.com.

For Teachers Take Note suggestions for using this book in the classroom, please visit www.tilburyhouse.com.

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