Thursday, April 11, 2013

Sajo & the Beaver People

This is the last of “The Collected Works of Grey Owl”, published in 1999 by Prospero Books, a division of Chapters Publishing, 552 pp. It can, however, be found as a single work from any of the normal outlets, as I listed in Pilgrims of the Wild.

Unlike the other volumes, Sajo and the Beaver People is both a novel, and written for a younger audience, say pre-teen and young teen. It is dedicated “To Children Everywhere and to All Who Love the Silent Places,” so in the latter case, I guess it’s okay to admit that I enjoyed it too.

It is a story of two Ojibway children, Sajo, a young girl of ten, and Shapian, her brother of fourteen years, if I remember their ages correctly. Their mother has died, and they live with their father, Big Feather, in their log cabin deep in the Canadian wilderness. The value of the book is not just as a great story, but a young reader learns through the adventures of the two young Indian children what life was like in the late 1800’s, their first encounters with steam locomotives and steamboats, and what they learned from the wildlife and forests, and so on.

Being without a mother, they are forced to mature at a young age. The story begins as they await their father’s return from a long trip. They are anxious for him to see what they have accomplished in his absence, and they watch down the lake for the first appearance of Big Feather and his canoe. He is rushing to get home in time for Sajo’s birthday. In his travels, he saves two young beaver kittens lost from their lodge. Big Feather decides they will be a great present for Sajo, one for her to pick for herself as her pet, and the other for her brother. The reader learns about the habits of beaver as they grow, and follows them through a string of adventures and misadventures that I would only damage by revealing further. I will end by saying it’s a great book for young readers, and a great glimpse into the past and the lives of Native Americans. For children who grow in the materialistic world of today, it is good for them to see how people lived at a time when all they possessed had to fit in a canoe. The reviews I saw on the book were nearly all four and five stars out of five, so I feel all who have read the book would concur in its recommendation.

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