Review of At the Mountain’s Base

At the Mountain’s Base
by Traci Sorell; illus. by Weshoyot Alvitre
Preschool, Primary    Kokila/Penguin    32 pp.    g
9/19    978-0-7352-3060-6    $17.99

In a cabin at the base of a mountain, multiple generations of Cherokee women await the return of their daughter/sister/mother/granddaughter, who is piloting a plane during wartime somewhere far away. While they wait, they weave, sing, and pray for her safe arrival. Sorell’s short, poetic text (“In that cabin / lies a cozy kitchen, / where a stove’s fire warms. / On that stove / simmers savory goodness in well-worn pans. / By those pans sits a grandma, weaving”) is augmented by Alvitre’s vivid watercolor and ink illustrations. Snapshots of the mountain, cabin, family, and pilot are framed by the colorful strands of the grandmother’s work. These weavings pull together and spread out to connect the family at the base of the mountain to the pilot in the air. (The grandmother might remind readers familiar with Cherokee folklore of Grandmother Spider, who watches over and protects the tribe; Sorell is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation.) Through these images, we feel the worry of the family as well as their pride in their relative’s accomplishment and the pilot’s own hope for peace. An author’s note explains that many Native women have fought in wars throughout history (we learn specifically about Ola Mildred “Millie” Rexroat, who was the only Native woman among the Women Airforce Service Pilots in World War II). The book captures the emotions of families separated by war while introducing the reader to a part of history that is often erased.

From the September/October 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Nicholl Denice Montgomery

Nicholl Montgomery is currently working on a PhD at Boston College in the Curriculum and Instruction department. Previously, she worked as an English teacher with Boston Public Schools.

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