We Belong to the Drum

by Sandra Lamouche (Author) Azby Whitecalf (Illustrator)

Reading Level: K − 1st Grade

The drum represents the heartbeat of Mother Earth. We all belong to the earth and we all belong to the drum.

Nikosis grew up going to powwows with his family, happily immersed in music, dance and the sounds of the drum. But when he starts going to daycare, he doesn't feel like he belongs. Nikosis cries every time his mother leaves him in the unfamiliar environment until, one day, she and the teachers use drums to help Nikosis find connection and comfort.

Inspired by her son's experience--and her family's love of powwow music and dance--Indigenous educator and champion hoop dancer Sandra Lamouche shares this uplifting true story of the transformative effects of culturally safe and inclusive early childhood education.

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School Library Journal

PreS-Gr 3--Based on her son's experience, Cree author Lamouche presents a story of how a young child overcomes separation anxiety. In Cree tradition, the drum represents the heartbeat of Mother Earth. Nikosis first heard the sound of the drum within the womb, when he heard his mother's heartbeat. Nikosis and his grandmother (Okhoma), mother (Okawiya), and father (Oktawiya) spend summers at powwow gatherings. Surrounded by family and friends, he sings and dances until "the drum made him want to have a nap." When his mother first leaves him at daycare, Nikosis cries, body rigid with fear. His mother asks the daycare teacher to play a CD of powwow music. The teacher complies and passes out drums so the other children can play along. When Nikosis hears the music he associates with family and cultural identity, he feels welcome. The next day, he can't wait to join his new friends and rushes outside, with his shirt inside-out. Cree illustrator Whitecalf uses flowing lines and colorful details to enliven this simple yet emotionally resonant story. VERDICT Offering an appreciative glimpse of Cree culture and traditions, and a gentle message of inclusion, this is a welcome addition to the "first day of school" shelves in school and public libraries.--Marilyn Taniguchi

Copyright 2023 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Orca Book Publishers
Publication date
May 16, 2023
BISAC categories
JUV039140 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Self-Esteem & Self-Reliance
JUV031040 - Juvenile Fiction | Performing Arts | Music
JUV030090 - Juvenile Fiction | People & Places | Canada - Native Canadian
Library of Congress categories
Picture books
Social life and customs
Cree Indians
Belonging (Social psychology)
Powwow songs

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