BOOKS

Cover of Singing Sisters
Singing Sisters: A Story of Himlity
Katherena Vermette, illustrated by Irene Kuziw. HighWater Press, 2014. 24 pages, $9.95.
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Reviewed by Amy Williams

Singing Sisters: A Story of Humility, written by accomplished author Katherena Vermette and beautifully illustrated with full-page images by Irene Kuziw, is a children’s picture book depicting two sisters involved in sibling rivalry.

The author deftly navigates the conflict that occurs between two Indigenous sisters. First explored are the feelings Ma’iingan experiences when her younger sister encroaches on what she feels to be her territory: singing. As the younger sister mimics the skillful singing of her older sister, Ma’iingan becomes jealous and gets upset. Then a helpful technique unfolds to aid Ma’iingan in sympathizing with her younger sister, opening the door to her humble response. Ma’iingan’s mother affirms her talent but also encourages her to share the activity of singing with her sister. Imitation really is the best form of flattery!

The author examines with great insight the topics of humility, sharing, empathy, jealousy and sibling rivalry using an everyday, relatable storyline. It is easy to identify with both Ma’iingan and her younger sister’s feelings.

Educators can use Singing Sisters in the classroom as a read-aloud, but its value is not limited to such. As a read-aloud, this book will spark diverse conversations about families, relationships and conflict. Curriculum connections are easily made throughout this book, specifically focusing on Indigenous traditions, vocabulary, culture and emotional intelligence. The text is simple but the message is deep and complex. Young learners will love this heartwarming and profoundly relevant story!

Singing Sisters is one book in a series, “The Seven Teachings of the Anishinaabe,” which include love, wisdom, courage, respect, honesty and truth (in addition to humility). There is a Teacher’s Guide available for the Seven Teachings Series with ideas and suggestions to guide students’ learning and to provide both support and strategies for educators. This book is appropriate for a range of students spanning Kindergarten to early and even upper primary levels.

I highly recommend this captivating, easy-to-read book as a way to engage young learners with its powerful message of humility and empathy.

Amy Williams is a member of the Upper Grand Occasional Teacher Local.

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