This lovely book not only offers warm reassurance to small children about being protected, but helps convey the Native American approach to nature, including the idea that both the animals and the land are deserving of our respect and gratitude.
It is the year 1900, and the time for the Passamaquoddy tribe to make their winter migration in Maine. Baby Zoo Sap is loaded onto the family bobsled when his family moves from their summer home into the deep woods for the winter. Zoo Sap falls off the sled and the family isn’t aware of it at first. But the animals in the forest hear his cries, and come together to snuggle him and keep him warm and safe until his father, Papa Joo Tum, comes back to find him. Joo Tum thanks each of the animals for saving his boy, and carries Zoo Sap back to the family.
Parent/Teacher material at the end of the book provides background on the Passamaquoddy tribe. (The Passamaquoddy are original natives of the area between Maine and New Brunswick.) A guide is also included for the Passamaquoddy names for the animals appearing in the story.
The author is a Passamaquoddy Storyteller, and actually has a young son named Zoo Sap. He has done a great deal of work to advance the cause of native peoples, having grown up in a world of hurt and outrage, as explained in the video accompanying his 2010 Sampson Catalyst for Change Award from the University of Southern Maine:
“Sockabasin, born in 1944 in the Native American village of Peter Dana Point, has worked for decades to gain recognition of and fair treatment for his people. The 10th of 11 children, he grew up in eastern Maine when native people were denied voting rights and use of public restrooms, were refused service by white barbers and were segregated from whites in movie theaters.”
Admirably, Sockabasin did not turn inward, or become consumed by anger, but instead became a tireless activist for native rights and native language preservation (one of the more popular features of his speaking tours is when he plays “Ain’t Nothing’ But A Hound Dog” using Passamaquoddy words). In addition, through his storytelling, he has helped to instigate change through the fostering of empathy and understanding.
The illustrator, Rebekah Raye, is well-known for her paintings of birds and animals. Her watercolor-and-ink pictures in this book are as warm and cozy as Zoo Sap must have been, surrounded by warm furry animals as he was kept safe and sound.
Evaluation: This is a charming book, and a perfect winter and/or bedtime story for younger children.
Published by Tilbury House Publishers, 2005