Children’s Book Reviews

Children's Book Reviews: Pemmican Wars

Publish December 27, 2017

Katherena Vermette’s debut graphic novel, Pemmican Wars, introduces readers to Echo Desjardins, a 13-year-old Métis girl struggling to adjust to a new home and school. Separated from her family, Echo copes with her overwhelming loneliness by constantly wearing headphones and listening to her mother’s old CDs on repeat. One morning Echo dozes off during history class and suddenly finds herself in the middle of a bison hunt on the Saskatchewan prairie. She returns to the present just as abruptly, and over the next few weeks she continues to slide back and forth through time, witnessing some of the key events in the Pemmican Wars of the early nineteenth century.

The first volume in a series entitled, A Girl Called Echo, Pemmican Wars is a beautifully haunting beginning to Echo’s story, which will presumably continue to intertwine with turning points in Métis history. Vermette expertly juxtaposes the isolation of an aboriginal teen in the current day with the emphasis on working together in traditional Métis communities. Henderson’s artwork and Yaciuk’s colours help to emphasize the differences between the past and present, as gorgeous prairie panoramas in vibrant hues contrast with crowded, dingy hallways and buses. Although not central to the plot, it’s nice to see Vermette quietly affirming genderqueer identities by including a non-gendered person referred to by a plural pronoun by one of Echo’s teachers. Already an award-winning writer in other genres, with Pemmican Wars Vermette has once again created a compelling work of art that shares Métis history and culture. This reviewer is eagerly awaiting the second volume of the series. 

Pemmican Wars: A Girl Called Echo Vol.1

Katherena Vermette
Illustration EN: Scott B Henderson and colour by Donovan Yaciuk
Portage and Main Press
ISBN 13: 978-1-55379-678-7

Roseanne Gauthier
Roseanne Gauthier

Roseanne Gauthier is the Youth Services Librarian for the Prince Edward Island (PEI) Public Library Service, and is PEI's 2017 award-winning 'Champion of Reading'. She has worked in the Faculties of Education at both the University of Prince Edward Island and Mount Saint Vincent University and spent two amazing years as the Children’s Librarian at the Confederation Centre Public Library. She holds an MLIS from Dalhousie University, and an MA from the University of Waterloo. Roseanne lives in Charlottetown, PEI with her husband, their adorable daughter, and two tuxedo cats.

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