Review of Remember

by Joy Harjo; illus. by Michaela Goade
Primary    Random House Studio/Random    40 pp.
3/23    9780593484845    $18.99
Library ed.  9780593484838    $21.99
e-book ed.  9780593484821    $10.99

Generation-spanning Native creators deliver a lustrous celebration of generational memory. U.S. Poet Laureate Harjo (Mvskoke) wrote the poem that is this book’s text in 1983; Caldecott ­Medalist Goade’s (Tlingit) illustrations bring it to a child audience forty years later. “Remember the sky you were born under,” urges Harjo, along with sun, moon, and stars. “Remember your birth, how your mother / struggled to give you form and breath. / You are evidence of her life, / and her mother’s, and hers.” Thus is the child reader explicitly linked to their human heritage, but Harjo’s web of belonging extends beyond literal family to the earth, its flora and fauna, and its peoples. Goade (We Are Water Protectors, rev. 7/20; Berry Song, rev. 7/22) begins with creation, as white Raven delivers light in the form of swooshes of color. Her imagery is drawn from her own heritage, the unmistakable iconography of Pacific Northwest Coast art informing figures both terrestrial and celestial. (Her illustrator’s note expands thoughtfully on her inclusion of these elements.) One of the many striking spreads depicts a child and an adult picking berries. The child’s hand rests on the ground, and roots spread out in cross section below; across the gutter, a stylized hand provides a visual representation of growth and continuity, with motifs of fish skeletons and shells nourishing the soil and plants sprouting, etc. The teeming images thrillingly catch young viewers up as they swirl, circles emphasizing the cyclical nature of life. “Remember,” closes the text, and children will.

From the March/April 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Vicky Smith

Vicky Smith is the children’s editor at Kirkus Reviews. She has served on a bunch of award committees and on the ALSC Board but she speaks for none of them, nor does she speak for this magazine, though it’s nice enough to print her opinions.

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