“When We Had Sled Dogs: A Story from the Trapline”
by Ida Tremblay and Miriam Körner
Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing
Review by Shelley A. Leedahl
$19.95 ISBN 978-1-988783-39-0
Searching for a book that's educational, Woodland Cree/English bilingual, and specifically Saskatchewan? If you'd also appreciate that the story be packaged in a beautifully-illustrated hardcover, then When We Had Sled Dogs: A Story from the Trapline, should fill your desires.
This upbeat and colourful book was inspired by the life of La Ronge, SK Elder Ida Tremblay, who shared her memories of "growing up following the seasonal cycle of trapline life" with Miriam Körner. Körner - also from La Ronge - wrote and illustrated the book, which, sadly, Tremblay never got to see, as she died shortly before it was published.
Körner's adept at the small, authentic details in her lively, watercolour illustrations. Each page warrants a long look, and children will enjoy the dogs featured throughout. Can they count all the dogs in the book? What other animals do they recognize? Adults might also ask a young audience how the artist demonstrates that the seasons are changing, discuss then and now differences, and point out culturally significant experiences, ie: for Christmas, Ida's sister receives a sewing kit. Sewing would've been seen as an integral skill within a culture where creating one's own warm clothing could be a matter of survival.
As we speed toward ever more advanced technologies and transportation systems, to urban centers, and into lives lived at breakneck speed, it's important that these records of traditional ways be preserved. Congratulations to writer-illustrator Miriam Körner for once again spotlighting a critical part of Saskatchewan's history and people. (Another of her titles is L’il Shadd: A Story of Ujima, also by YNWP.) And thank you Ida Tremblay, for the vivid memories and beautiful teachings.