I Am Not a Number, by Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathy Kacer, illustrated by Gillian Newland, tells the story of Irene Couchie, Dupuis’ grandmother, and her experience of the residential schooling system, where, along with many other First Nations children, she was stripped of her identity both as a person – the children went by numbers, not names; she was assigned 759 – and as a member of her community, punished for speaking her language – the Devil’s tongue, the nuns called it. As Irene is getting her hair cut, she says that she is crying not only because her hair is getting cut, but because in her community, hair is cut as a signifier of loss; the nun is not only cutting Irene’s hair: she is attempting to kill Irene and her culture*.
I have not enough space to say all the good things there are to say about The Singing Bones, nor a vocabulary sufficiently stocked to even so much as touch upon a full description of the wonder and delight this volume arouses in me! I mean, for one, I know we really shouldn’t judge books by their cover*, but how can you resist picking this up, knowing that this is a collection of the Grimm’s fairy tales, each tale accompanied by a sculpture in the same vein as the one on the cover?
It gets better. Each tale is presented here as a vignette rather than a retelling, revealing dramatic snippets of each story (the drama is aided all the more by the lighting and setup of each scene), sometimes altogether forgoing any mention of the plot proper. You’ll be exposed not only to a specific adaptation of the tales, but to a new way of interpreting them: Tan acts more as a guide that shows you the sweep of the landscape rather than one that points out all the details.
And if you aren’t completely familiar with the Grimm’s tales, a short synopsis of each of the tales featured in The Singing Bones is provided at the end of the book. It was quite nice to revisit the pages for tales I was unsure or had absolutely no clue about. (In addition to which I’ve blogged about Pullman’s collection of Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm before, so although there are some tales Tan covers that aren’t covered by Pullman, it’s well worth a read.)
August Pullman is as ordinary a boy as any. He loves his family, his dog Daisy, and of course, the Star Wars franchise. He likes ice cream, riding his bike, and playing video games. Why am I telling you all of this? Why am I telling you about an ordinary boy, who enjoys ordinary things? Well, it’s because there is something extraordinary about August.
Wonder is beautifully written. Its focus is of course, on August, with perspectives from other characters adding to the impact of the story. It is a book that showcases the importance of not judging others based on appearance and first impression. It will make you consider how your words, body language and facial expressions impact those around you. It will make you laugh, and cry, but also make you feel thankful for having read it. Children and adults alike will appreciate this book and the message it sends to its readers. 5 stars! Can’t wait for the movie!