We Dream Medicine Dreams by Lisa Boivin, an artist, bioethicist and a member of the Deninu Kųę´ First Nation in the Northwest Territories, is a beautifully illustrated picture book that observes the strong relationship between a young girl and her grandfather. Boivin’s digital illustrations, which look like cut-paper collage, are both colourful and bright and full of texture and depth. They help show the warmth and beauty found in the natural world.
Throughout the book, a little girl speaks to her grandpa about her dreams. Her grandpa explains how the girl’s animal dreams have medicine in them, and that this medicine teaches us how to face challenges in our lives so that we live a good life. Grandpa tells her how her first dream, about Bear, teaches the dreamer how to learn from their mothers. Hawk teaches how to open yourself up for good things to happen. Caribou teaches about generosity, and Wolf to believe in yourself. When grandpa gets sick and falls into a coma, the little girl needs to focus on her grandpa’s teachings to help her get through this very difficult time. She spends time by her grandpa’s bedside and creates a safe space for herself where she can say goodbye. She says, “I crawled into bed with you. I closed my eyes and began to dream a medicine dream for us.” The medicine dream she dreams for them is beautifully illustrated. As she dreams, she talks about his teachings and how they will help her as she goes through life. She learns how to say goodbye to her grandpa.
I highly recommend this book. Not only did I love the incredible illustrations, which would definitely appeal to children, I also loved how this gentle story would be a great starting point when talking to children in a classroom about family loss, death and grief. In social studies, students can also use the book as a starting point when exploring animal teachings and the power of dreams in Indigenous cultures. We Dream Medicine Dreams would be a wonderful addition to a classroom library or to use as a read aloud.
Jane Ranson is a member of the Limestone Teacher Local.