Review of The Song That Called Them Home

The Song That Called Them Home The Song That Called Them Home
by David A. Robertson; illus. by Maya McKibbin
Primary    Tundra    48 pp.
4/23    9780735266704    $24.99
e-book ed.  9780735266711    $11.99

On an ordinary summer day, Lauren and her younger brother, James, go to the lake with Moshom, their grandfather. After the long journey, Moshom lies down for a nap. Hungry and impatient, the children decide to take their canoe out to fish. Suddenly, the boat tips over and James is taken away by the ­Memekwesewak (“little people”). Lauren pursues them, swimming through “a watery pathway” to another world. Finally, she meets up with James and they dance with the Memekwesewak “for hours that turned into days,” forgetting everything else until they hear their grandfather’s distant cry: “Way-oh, hey, hey / …Come back! Hear my welcome song! / My beating drum will guide you home!” According to the appended author’s note, “Indigenous communities across Turtle Island have stories of the Memekwesewak…[who] live between the rocks, the rapids, amid the trees of the land that provides us with life.” McKibbin’s (“a Two-Spirited Ojibwe, Yoeme, and Irish settler ­artist”) illustrations depict them as white, ­wraithlike beings and use dark purples and blues to signal when the children have entered the underwater world. Norway House Cree Nation member Robertson here provides readers with a satisfying story about the strength of family bonds, persistence, and determination.

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

Nicholl Denice Montgomery

Nicholl Denice 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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